Fight for Sight has partnered with the Medical Research Council (MRC) to offer a new Clinical Research Training Fellowship, which has been awarded to Dr Harry Orlans.
A specialist registrar at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Orlans will complete the three-year fellowship at the University of Oxford, beginning this month. The researcher will look to develop rhodopsin gene therapy to treat dominant retinitis pigmentosa.
A quarter of cases of dominant retinitis pigmentosa are a result of faults in the rhodopsin gene (RHO). Rhodopsin is a light-sensitive protein which is found in the photoreceptor cells of the retina and the cells are active in low light. Over 150 faults in RHO have been identified which result in retinitis pigmentosa.
During the project, Dr Orlans aims to develop an efficient way to deliver working copies of RHO to reduce the toxic effects of the faulty version at the retina. The supplementary gene will be delivered by a specially engineered virus, that cannot cause disease, injected into the eye.
Speaking about the study, Dr Orlans commented: “People with a faulty rhodopsin gene form the largest group of retinitis pigmentosa patients, but the sheer variety of genetic mutations makes it unlikely that customised treatments can be developed in the near future.
“So, instead of trying to silence specific mutations, we aim to develop a broader strategy in which we introduce large quantities of the healthy gene to try and override the system. This could be beneficial to many patients and I’m very glad to have been given the opportunity.”
During the fellowship, Dr Orlans will be supervised by world-leading expert Professor Robert MacLaren.
Commenting on the establishment of the fellowship, Fight for Sight’s director of research, Dr Dolores M Conroy, said: “The Fellowship involves training a new clinical academic who has shown great potential in his medical career thus far. Fight for Sight is very pleased to partner with the MRC to support Dr Orlans as he enters one of the very best environments for retinal ophthalmology research.”
Applications for the 2016 MRC/Fight for Sight Clinical Training Fellowship open from 13 November to 13 January.