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News, Highlights, and Accomplishments from the Retinal Development, Genetics, and Therapy Section

Congratulations to postdoc Anupam Mondal for winning an ODS grant! His proposal was entitled "Modulation of epigenome and cellular pathways in the aging retina by diet and micronutrient suppelmentation."

Anupam Mondal grant


Congratulations to postdoc Laura Campello-Blasco for winning an ARVO travel award, and postdocs Laura Campello-Blasco, Partha Dey and Nivedita Singh for winning FARE awards from the NIH!

      2021 Travel awardees   2021 FARE awardees


Congratulations to PhD student Michael Phelan! Michael one the Temple University Three Minute Talk Competition!

Michael Phelan


"Researchers use patients' cells to test gene therapy for rare eye disease"-- a new HHS press piece about research from our lab is available here!

Congratulations to postbac James Gentry! He is heading to start a PhD program at the University of Virginia. James has been a productive member of the NNRL for nearly two years now, and he will be missed. Below is a photo from his farewell zoom party.


A new Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology publication reviews the genes involved in primary cilia biogenesis and associated retinal ciliopathies (read the publication).


Congratulations to postdoc Dr. Andrew Smith! He is heading to Washington University at St. Louis for a great new postdoc. We will miss him, but we bid him farewell via a lab zoom party!



A new Stem Cells publication "discusses the current status and future potential of combining retinal organoids as human models with recent technologies to advance the development of gene, cell, and drug therapies for retinopathies." Read the publication.


A new Nature publication restores sight in mice by turning skin cells into light-sensing eye cells!  "This is the first study to show that direct, chemical reprogramming can produce retinal-like cells, which gives us a new and faster strategy for developing therapies for age-related macular degeneration and other retinal disorders caused by the loss of photoreceptors," said Anand Swaroop (read the publication). Also read the associated NEI press release here, and another press piece available here.


A new Cell Reports publication points to targeting the epigenome as a potentail therapeutic strategy--as detailed in a recent NEI press release (read the press release). This work provides "pivotal connections between aging, the epigenome, dysfunction of the cell’s mitochondria, and diseases such as AMD" (read the publication). Another press piece is available here.


The NNRL RDGT section is keeping in touch during the COVID19 pandemic. We have been holding regular video conferences to update each other on research progress, while maintaining safe physical distance.

NNRL lab video conference


NNRL graduate student Michael Phelan is helping the Temple University COVID Assistance Team to design and build 3D-printed molds to make face shields for health workers treating COVID-19 patients. Currently, they are producing hundreds of shields per day. Phelan is a bioengineering Ph.D. student, splitting his time between NEI and Temple. Read the Temple University news article.  


A new publication in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia  found that strict adherence to a Mediterranean diet may help preserve cognitive function (read the publication). The study was led by an NEI scientist investigating how nutrition affects the brain and eye (read the NEI press release). Another press piece is available here.


NNRL, and the RDGT section was well represented at the 2019 National Eye Institute Director's awards. Dr. Ximena Corso Diaz won an award for receiving an external research grant (top photo, third from left). A group of NNRL members received an award for technology innovation in the NNRL, including (second photo, starting second from left) Dr. Anupam Mondal, Dr. Noor White, Matthew Brooks, Dr. Koray Kaya. Dr. Jacob Nellissery (third photo) won an award for administrative and technical excellence. Additionally, Dr. Holly Chen received the rising star award. Congratulations to all!

Ximena Corso Diaz (third from left)

NNRL Group Award

Jacob Nellissery

A new Journal of Clinical Investigation publication discuses the role of single-strand binding protein 1 in the formation of optic nerve connections and the resulting impact for patients (read the publication).


Congratulations to postdocs Dr. Ryan Kelley and Dr. Laura Campello for winning best 10-minute talk and runner-up best 3-minute talk (respectively) at this year's Focus on Fellows event, hosted by the National Eye Institute!

R. Kelley and L. Campello


A new Translational Science of Rare Diseases publication reviews the biology of photoreceptor cilia and associated defects and discusses recent progress in evolving treatment modalities, especially using patient-derived iPSCs, for retinal ciliopathies (read the publication).


Several members of the RDGT section attended the Cell Symposium: Transcriptional Regulation in Evolution, Development, Disease in Chicago, IL, and presented their work there.

RDGT members at conference in Chicago



Andrew Smith NHLBI Symposium

Postdoctoral fellow Dr. Andrew Smith presented at the 2019 NHLBI Mitochondrial Biology Symposium. His poster was entitled "DJ-1 Like Protein GATD3A is a Mitochondrial Amidotransferase."

Congratulations to postdoctoral fellow Dr. Noor White (second from left) who placed third among 14 competitors at the NIH Three-minute Talk Competition! Her presentation was entitled “An Evolutionary Perspective on Visual Disease”.

A group of people stands in front of a screen that reads "Welcome! Three-minute Talks Competition."



The NNRL held its 3rd Annual Research Retreat on Friday, June 14th. The all-day symposium featured talks by NNRL members, as well as two keynote talks from speakers outside of the National Eye Institute, and a lunch-and-learn session on grant writing and PI-track opportunities within the NIH. The retreat was followed by a party at NNRL chief Dr. Anand Swaroop's home. Congratulations to postdocs Noor White, Holly Chen, Ryan Kelly and postbac Rebecca Lees for winning best 15 minute talks. Congratulations to graduate student Michael Phelan and postdoc Xulong Liang for winning best 5 minute talks.

Collage of 9 photos showing lab members at the NNRL retreat.

Last updated: October 29, 2021