International Harrington Prize jointly awarded to ophthalmologists

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The 2023 Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine recognizes Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, and Albert M. Maguire, MD, for their work in retinal gene therapy for genetic diseases.

The 2023 Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine recognizes ophthalmologists for their work in retinal gene therapy for genetic diseases.

The 2023 Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine recognizes ophthalmologists for their work in retinal gene therapy for genetic diseases.

The 10th annual Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine has been jointly awarded to Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, and Albert M. Maguire, MD, for their translational research to restore sight in inherited genetic diseases.

Bennett is the F.M. Kirby meritus Professor of Ophthalmology and Cell and Developmental Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Maguire is the the F.M. Kirby Professor of Molecular Ophthalmology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

According to a news release, the Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine, established in 2014 by the Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals and the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), honors physician-scientists who have moved science forward with achievements notable for innovation, creativity and potential for clinical application.

Bennett and Maguire are pioneers in retinal gene therapies, conducting their early work at a time when there were few guideposts. Working collaboratively for the past 30 years, they are widely recognized for persistence and dedication that has led to a first fully approved breakthrough treatment for blindness.

The news release noted that Bennet and Maguire's results in a dog model of Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare genetic cause of blindness, provided support for human clinical trials, which reversed blindness in children and resulted in FDA approval of gene therapy to the eye.

Building on their work in LCA, the Bennett-Maguire team initiated a clinical trial for a second inherited retinal degeneration, Choroideremia, a disease leading to complete blindness in affected men by middle age. In doing so, they opened a path from laboratory to clinic in additional blinding diseases.

"The path from proof-of-concept to delivering a safe and effective treatment to patients is one that few physician-scientists are able to experience. Drs. Bennett and Maguire have achieved many 'firsts' through their groundbreaking work and have opened the gates for many new treatments to follow," Sohail F. Tavazoie, MD, PhD, Leon Hess Professor, The Rockefeller University and 2022-2023 President of the ASCI, said in the news release.

"The translational work of Drs. Bennett and Maguire has impacted the standard of care for patients living with congenital blindness and offered new hope where none existed. Their extraordinary achievements are precisely what the Harrington Prize seeks to recognize," said Jonathan S. Stamler, MD, president of the Harrington Discovery Institute, Robert S. and Sylvia K. Reitman Family Foundation Distinguished Professor of Cardiovascular Innovation and Professor of Medicine and of Biochemistry at University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University.

According to the release, a committee composed of members of the ASCI Council and the Harrington Discovery Institute Scientific Advisory Board reviewed nominations from leading academic medical centers globally before selecting the 2023 Harrington Prize recipients.

In addition to sharing the Prize's $20,000 honorarium, Bennett and Maguire will deliver the Harrington Prize Lecture at the 2023 AAP/ASCI/APSA Joint Meeting on April 21, will be featured speakers at the 2023 Harrington Scientific Symposium May 24-25, and will co-publish an essay in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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