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ARVO 2024: Daniel Saban, PhD, Cogan Award Lecture recipient, discusses lecture and meaning of award

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This year at ARVO, Daniel Saban PhD, was awarded the Cogan Award Lecture. He spoke with the Eye Care Network about this lecture and what the award meant to him.

This year at ARVO, Daniel Saban PhD, was awarded the Cogan Award Lecture. He spoke with the Eye Care Network about this lecture and what the award meant to him.

Video Transcript:

Editor's note: The below transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Daniel Saban, PhD:

I am here being awarded the Cogan Lecture, which is given to individuals that are 45 or younger that show great promise for having and making impact on ophthalmology and vision sciences for the future as well. And the specific work that I'll be talking about is in the context of immunology. It is often thought that immunology is really a study of disease, whereby immune cells sort of protect us from microbial infections, or suppress auto reactivity to, to protect us from having auto immune diseases, or involved in wound healing. And all those are very true. So there is a critical role, obviously, for immune cells in those settings. But what is becoming more and more appreciated is that these cells are not only coming in from the bone marrow, doing a job and leaving. In fact, we now know that these cells can actually take up residence in the tissue, in peripheral tissues. And they do so at a very early age, in fact, prenatal times.

So we're not thinking about these, many of these cells as constituents or residents of a particular tissue; in this case, the eye. And in so doing, they're not only scavenging and surveilling for infectious agents, and trying to protect us from them, but they're also contributing to the function of the tissue. They can interact with epithelial cells, they interact with nerves, they interact with fibroblasts. And they're doing critical things, such as waste removal, production of growth factors, and tissue integrity, in fact. So they are key constituents of tissue. And that's the way we've been studying them, in the context, again, of tissue integrity and physiology. And in so doing, we actually are learning key properties that can fall apart or lose efficacy and give rise to disease. So we're not only studying homeostasis, but we're also studying potentially how the loss of homeostasis gives rise to disease, and the potential to target those processes to treat disease. And I will be talking about one such pathway that we started, a spin-out from Duke University. Looking at...we're developing a novel class of molecules to leverage these properties of the immune system to treat inherited and age-related retinal degenerative diseases.

Yeah, I think there is a massive unmet medical need. Innovation has been outstanding in the last decade, and even less. There are retinal degenerative diseases that have been or will be or continue to be treated with gene therapy modalities that are new drugs in the context of geographic atrophy and AMD. But there's still a massive unmet medical need. And there's a massive need for innovation. And we bring a new angle, which is in the context of leveraging our immune system to combat some of these degenerative processes. And the hope is that if it turns true for what we see in animal models, there is a potential for a different and novel class of molecules that could be or hold promise to be used in these patient settings for which there still remains an unmet medical need.

It's amazing. You know, I've been coming to ARVO since 2000, and have been mentored by or closely interacted with a number of Cogan awardees in the past. And it's always been a dream. And just being in the realm, and now having been awarded this amazing acknowledgment, you know, shows me that the work and science that we're doing has been meaningful. And that's the biggest privilege, I think, to be a scientist is to feel appreciated and to know that your work is having an impact, with your colleagues and the field.

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