Pursuit of excellence
Peter J. McDonnell, MD, director and William Holland Wilmer Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute expressed his congratulations to all the other excellent institutions recognized in this survey.
The pursuit of excellence is the hallmark of the Wilmer Eye research program.
“Our founder, Dr. Wilmer, established the Wilmer Eye Institute in 1925 with the belief that research, teaching, and patient care were so intimately intertwined that the pursuit of excellence in one area required the pursuit of excellence in all three areas,” Dr. McDonnell said.
“Consequently, we have always placed an emphasis on research regardless of whether it is conducted in the laboratory, in the clinic, or during the course of an epidemiologic study out in the ‘real world.’ The goal is to determine how we can better care for our patients,” he added. “Our residents and students participate in that research work, and we believe this is a key component of their educational experience.”
He went on to explain that Wilmer’s research has gone on to bear fruit.
“The largest licensing fees in the history of Johns Hopkins have come from ophthalmic surgical instruments developed at Wilmer,” Dr. McDonnell said. “In addition to partnerships with established pharmaceutical and device companies to bring our discoveries into the clinic, the Wilmer faculty teams have recently founded or co-founded 12 start-up companies for the purpose of translating exciting laboratory discoveries into new therapies that, if successful, will change how we care for patients.”
One example of these discoveries is a therapy for choroidal neovascularization in patients with age-related macular degeneration that would replace the currently used injection regimens that are extremely burdensome for both patients and physicians. Patients now receive injection every 1 to 2 months.
The new therapy would require patients to return for injections once or twice a year. This therapy is currently undergoing testing in clinical trials.
Dr. McDonnell also mentioned that the Wilmer biomedical engineering research program has undergone substantial growth.
Comprehensive team approach
Vittorio Porciatti, DSc, professor, director and vice chair of research at Bascom Palmer’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Vision Research Center, commented on the institute’s Number 2 ranking in the Best Research category.
“What makes Bascom Palmer unique in research is the appropriate mixture of clinicians, clinician-scientists, and basic scientists that foster cross-fertilization and allow the addressing of the full temporal spectrum of all eye diseases, that is, preclinical, translational between preclinical and clinical (the so-called tipping point), and manifest,” Dr. Porciatti said.
“These different stages need to be addressed with different strategies, which require different fields of expertise to achieve the goals of prevention of visual loss, protection of existing vision, and restoration of lost vision,” he said. “Advanced technology leads the diverse fields and allows engineering of unique instrumentation and biomaterials that combine complementary disciplines and open new areas of investigation.”