University of Pittsburgh:
Building a World Class Vision Treatment Institute
In 2018, Dr. José-Alain Sahel left Paris, where he had created and led the Institut de la Vision, one of the world’s most prominent research and commercialization centers—with 60 active clinical trials with corporate partners annually, and 30 spin-off companies that have secured more than $560 million in investments and created more than 1,000 jobs. Its success is based, in part, on the culture Dr. Sahel created by recruiting accomplished, collaborative scientists committed to treating or curing vision loss. His relocation to southwestern Pennsylvania and the launch of the Pittsburgh Vision Institute (Institute), a new $300-million initiative, is projected to yield similar results and position the University of Pittsburgh as a global leader in research and treatment for as many as 600 million people worldwide who, by 2050, are expected to be visually impaired.
A key focus of the Institute will be its Cortical Vision Program, through which the Institute will seek to address blindness associated with ocular trauma, glaucoma, diabetes, tumors, or optic neuropathies. To conduct the necessary research, the Institute will collaborate with the Paris Vision Institute, the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Ophthalmology, neuroscientists from Pitt’s Brain Institute and Carnegie Mellon University, and the Paul Allen Brain Institute in Seattle, Washington. First, however, it must recruit additional researchers to fill existing gaps in knowledge and technology in such areas as facial recognition, multisensory integration, and brain plasticity following loss of vision or vision restoration. A grant of $6 million from the Foundation will enable the University to do so—either by recruiting one senior and one junior faculty member, or three junior faculty members, with the majority of the funding supporting laboratory space, equipment, and testing.