Award Winners

Award Winners 2023

Endre A. Balazs Prize

Prof David Williams
UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine

The Endre A. Balazs Prize will be awarded during the Opening Cereemony on Monday, February 20, from 10:30 – 12:00 in Room Arena 1B.

The title of his lecture is:Renewal of phototransductive membrane and questioning dogmata” introduced by Dr Aparna Lakkaraju


David Williams is currently Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurobiology at UCLA, where he holds the Karl Kirchgessner Foundation Chair in Vision Science. His interests are focused on the cell biology of photoreceptor and RPE cells and retinal disease mechanisms and therapies. Prof. Williams is originally from New Zealand. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) from the University of Canterbury, a PhD in Neurobiology from the Australian National University, and carried out postdoctoral studies at UC Santa Barbara and UCLA. He established his first laboratory in 1986 at Indiana University, then moved to the Departments of Pharmacology and Neuroscience at UC San Diego in 1995, before moving to UCLA in 2007. His early studies elucidated extraordinary adaptations of some arthropod retinas that effected high sensitivity for night vision or high acuity for day vision. For most of his career, however, he has focused on the vertebrate retina, particularly with an interest in cytoskeletal mechanisms, including the roles of molecular motors. His lab has provided key contributions to understanding cellular mechanisms underlying protein delivery to and expansion of the photoreceptor ciliary membrane. These studies have involved a variety of state-of-the-art microscopy and genetics approaches. His group has also developed our understanding on dynamic processes in the RPE, particularly the motility of organelles, driven by molecular motors. One of these molecular motors is myosin-7a, which is encoded by the gene mutated in Usher syndrome 1B, a deaf-blindness affliction. His lab’s findings on the role of this actin-based motor have led to gene therapy studies, which have led to a potential prevention of blindness in Usher 1B patients. Prof. Williams has published over 150 peer-reviewed publications. His interests continue to be centered around using novel approaches to investigate dynamic cellular processes in photoreceptor and RPE cells and launching his trainees into successful careers of their own.


Ernst H. Bárány Prize

Prof Rajendra Apte
Washington University

The Ernst H. Bárány Prize will be awarded during the Prize Cereemony and Lecture on Tuesday, February 21, from 10:30 – 12:00 in Room Arena 1B.

The title of his lecture is: “ Retinal Metabolism and Inflammation in Homeostasis and Disease” introduced by Dr Goldis Malek


Dr. Rajendra S. Apte is the Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, where he serves as Vice Chair of Innovation and Translation in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and is a Professor in the Department of Developmental Biology and Medicine. Dr. Apte received his medical degree from the University of Bombay and joined Washington University School of Medicine after obtaining a Ph.D. in Immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, completing a residency at Parkland Hospital, and a retinal vascular and vitreo-retinal surgery fellowship at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Apte was recruited to Washington University in 2003 and became a tenured professor at the School of Medicine in less than ten years. Dr. Apte is a vitreoretinal surgeon and clinician scientist. His basic research is focused on inflammation, aging, neurodegeneration and angiogenesis. His clinical research spans the translational spectrum from drug discovery and development to clinical trials. Dr. Apte has published extensively in basic and clinical peer reviewed journals and has participated as a principal investigator in numerous clinical trials. He was appointed in 2020 to be a Permanent Member of the National Eye Institute Board of Scientific Counselors. Dr. Apte has won numerous awards, honors, and educational scholarships. Some recent highlights include: 2022 Ernst Bárány Prize from the International Society for Eye Research, 2022 UT Southwestern Medical Center Distinguished Alumnus, 2018 European Vision and Eye Research Certificate of Honour and Keynote Lecture; 2017 J. Wayne Streilein Distinguished Alumnus Award Lecture in Immunology; 2017 Macula Society W. Richard Green Award; 2017 Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging; 2016 Research to Prevent Blindness Nelson Trust Award; 2014 Research to Prevent Blindness Sybil B. Harrington Physician-Scientist Award for Age-Related Macular Degeneration; 2014 ASRS Presidents’ Award; 2013/2014 Carl Camras Translational Research Award, the Macula Society Young Investigator Award in 2013; Julie Martin Mid-Career Award in Aging Research from AFAR in 2012; the Macula Society Retina Research Foundation Cox Research Award in 2010; the American Retina Foundation Research Award in 2008; and the Research to Prevent Blindness Career Development Award in 2004. These awards accompany his 145+ peer-reviewed publications. His entrepreneurial activities include starting four life sciences companies and licensing several technologies, many of which are in human clinical trials. His research has been published in several high impact journals including New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Cell, Cell Metabolism, the JCI, Nature Communications, PLoS Medicine, PNAS, JAMA Ophthalmology, among others. Additionally, Dr. Apte has professional associations with the American Society for Clinical Investigation, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Society of Retina Specialists, Association for Research in Visual Ophthalmology, Club Jules Gonin, the Macula Society, and the Retina Society.


Paul Kayser International Award in Retina Research

Prof Steven J. Fliesler
The State University of New York- University at Buffalo

The Paul Kayser International Award in Retina Research will be awarded during the Prize Ceremony and Lecture on Wednesday, February 22, from 10:30 – 12:00 in Room Arena 1B.

The title of his lecture is: “Hereditary Retinal Diseases: Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’ Down the Mevalonate Pathway” introduced by Prof Joshua Dunaief


Dr. Fliesler is a SUNY Distinguished Professor and the Meyer H. Riwchun Endowed Chair Professor of Ophthalmology, and Vice-Chair/Director of Research in the Department of Ophthalmology, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, of the State University of New York (SUNY)- University at Buffalo (UB) in Buffalo, NY (USA). Concurrently, he also is a Research Career Scientist at the Buffalo VA Medical Center (VAWNYHS). He obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from Rice University, was a postdoctoral fellow at the Cullen Eye Institute/Baylor College of Medicine, and was previously on faculty at Baylor College of Medicine, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute/University of Miami School of Medicine, and Saint Louis University School of Medicine prior to joining the UB faculty in 2008. His research is focused on inborn errors of cholesterol and isoprenoid metabolism and their impact on the development, structure and function of the retina, as well as on blast injury to the eye. The author of more than 150 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and review articles, and editor of two books, Dr. Fliesler is the Editor-in-Chief of Experimental Eye Research, the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Eye and Vision, an Associate Editor for Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology and serves on four other journal editorial boards. He has received multiple honors and awards, including a James S. Adams Scholar Award and a Senior Scientist Award from Research to Prevent Blindness, Silver-tier (2009) and Gold-tier (2014) Fellow of ARVO (FARVO), a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities (2014), was designated a UB Distinguished Professor (2014-18). For ISER, he has served as Councilor for North America, Treasurer, and President. For ARVO, he has served as: Chair of the Publications Committee, a member of the Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC), and the Board of Trustees (representing the Retinal Cell Biology Section), and President.


The Ludwig von Sallmann Prize

Prof Krzysztof Palczewski

University of California, Irvine

The Ludwig von Sallmann Prize will be awarded during the Prize Ceremony and Lecture on Thursday, February 23, from 10:30 – 12:00 in Room Arena 1B.

The title of his lecture is: “Replacing Gene Therapy with Gene Editing for Inherited Retinal Diseases” introduced by Prof Steven Fliesler, and Dr Catherine Bowes Rickman


Krzysztof Palczewski is a biochemical pharmacologist and molecular biologist, known particularly for seminal multidisciplinary scientific contributions to the biology and chemistry of vertebrate vision and therapy of retinal diseases. The author or coauthor of more than 428 journal articles, his laboratory is the best known for solving the structures of different forms of rhodopsin, a prototype for G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that comprise the largest and most diverse family of human drug targets, and other important proteins of the visual system. Moreover, his team developed high-resolution imaging with two-photon excitation that impacted non-invasive in vivo monitoring of real-time visual function. Palczewski, a US citizen, was born in Poland. He achieved a M.S. (chemistry) degree at the University of Wroclaw, and a Ph.D. (biochemistry) degree at Technical University of Wroclaw, Poland. He rose through the faculty ranks in Ophthalmology and Pharmacology at University of Washington, Seattle before serving as Chair of Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. Currently he is the Donald Bren Professor and Irving H. Leopold Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of California, Irvine, serving as Director of the Center for Translational Vision Research, Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. He has received numerous prestigious international awards and is a member of both the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Award Winners 2020

The Endre A. Balazs Prize

Vadim Arshavsky is a Helena Rubinstein Professor of Ophthalmology and Pharmacology at Duke University. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Moscow State University and, after completing a postdoc at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has kept faculty appointments at Harvard (1995-2005) and Duke (2005-now). Dr. Arshavsky’s research is devoted to understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of vision. Most of his work is centered on vertebrate photoreceptor cells responsible for the light detection in the eye. His major past contributions include the first demonstration that the lifetime of activated heterotrimeric G proteins could be regulated by their interacting partners and the discovery of an unusual mechanism of light adaptation, whereby the light-sensitivity of photoreceptor cells is adjusted through massive diurnal translocation of signaling proteins between their individual subcellular compartments. Currently, the Arshavsky laboratory pursues two major directions. The first addresses the molecular processes responsible for building the light-sensitive outer segment organelle of photoreceptor cells. Most notably, they revealed a striking mechanistic connection between the formation of photoreceptor disc membranes and the primordial ability of the primary cilium to release extracellular vesicles, called ectosomes. They further showed that the formation of each photoreceptor disc begins with an expansion of branched actin cytoskeleton in a mechanism homologous to lamellipodia outgrowth in motile cells. Their second direction addresses pathophysiological mechanisms leading to the loss of photoreceptor cells in inherited blinding diseases. They explore a concept that photoreceptor loss could be prevented by activating the protein degradation machinery in affected cells.

The Ernst H. Bárány Prize

Naj Sharif, PhD, DSc has >34-years’ pharmaceutical drug discovery research/development experience covering neuroscience and ophthalmology. His 22-year tenure at Alcon resulted in his contributions to the discovery, characterization, development and US FDA approvals of Patanol®/Pataday®/Pazeo® and Emadine® to treat allergic conjunctivitis, and Travatan® and Simbrinza® for the treatment of ocular hypertension / Glaucoma. He is Vice President, Global Alliances and External Research, Ophthalmology Innovation Center at Santen Inc USA, where he has been instrumental in establishing, nurturing and managing long term partnerships with pharma companies and several global universities. Dr. Sharif serves on numerous committees of many learned Societies (including ISER, elected Trustee of AOPT; Gold Fellow of ARVO and Fellow of British Pharmacological Society (BPS)). Dr. Sharif is Editor/Associate Editor/Editorial Board member of many Pharmacology and Ophthalmic journals. He is the recipient of the inaugural Dr. Roger Vogel award for ocular pharmaceutical research (ARVO Foundation, 2104), and the recipient of the “Sir James Black Award” for contributions to drug discovery (BPS, 2017). Dr. Sharif is an Adjunct Professor / Honorary Senior Lecturer / Senior Principal Investigator and graduate Faculty at multiple Universities worldwide. He has also been a PhD candidates supervisor, advisor and mentor to several students at numerous academic institutions. Dr. Sharif has published >210 scientific articles, edited 2 books, holds 24 issued US/EU patents, and has filed >30 patent applications over the last two decades.

The Retina Research Foundation's Paul Kayser International Award in Retina Research

Samuel Miao-Sin Wu was born in Beijing, China, and grew up in Hong Kong. He received B.A. degree in Physics and Biophysics from University of California, Berkeley in 1973 and Ph.D in Biophysics from Harvard University in 1979. After a 3-year postdoctoral training in Neurobiology at UC Berkeley, he joined the faculty of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas in 1982, where he is currently a Professor of Ophthalmology, Neuroscience, and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, and the Camille and Raymond Hankamer Chair in Ophthalmology. Professor Wu’s research concerns detailed molecular and synaptic mechanisms underlying retinal function and eye diseases. His lab pioneers investigation on rod and cone photoreceptor interactions and parallel information pathways in the retina. They have made discoveries on how individual ion channels, receptors, synapses and gene products mediate retinal function in normal animals and dysfunction in mouse models for eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma and Bardet Biedl Syndrome. Professor Wu has received many honors and awards, including the Sam and Bertha Brochstein Award (1987), the Marjorie W. Margolin Prize (1991), James M. Barr Award (1998) from the Retina Research Foundation; the Dolly Green Scholars Award (1989) and Senior Scientific Investigators Award (1997) from Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc; the Boycott Prize (2006) from FASEB; the Ludwig von Sallmann Prize (2008) and the Paul Kayser Award (2020) from the International Society for Eye Research; the Friedenward Award (2009) from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Alcon Research Award (2011) from the Alcon Research Institute and BRASS mentor of the year award (2017) from Baylor College of Medicine.