Skip to content

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


NNRL members Jayshree Advani, Kyle Schwab and Zepeng Qu receive FARE 2024 awards

NNRL Post-doctoral Fellows, Drs Jayshree Advani, Kyle Schwab and Zepeng Qu, are among the WINNERs of the Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) 2024 competition. Their abstracts were deemed outstanding based on scientific merit, originality, experimental design and overall quality and presentation. The FARE 2024 Award is $1,500 that the winners may use to attend and present their work at a scientific meeting within the United States. Congratulations Jayshree, Kyle and Zepeng.

Jayshree AdvaniKyle SchwabZepeng Qu


NNRL to host 12 eminent researchers for 2023-24 RDIG seminar series

RDIG seminar series

NNRL will host 12 eminent researchers given in the above flyer for the 2023-24 RDIG seminar series.


Summer interns at NNRL

NNRL is happy to host Krytsia Negron Lugo, Michael Glen, Shani Williams, Christoper Choi and Ojas Chaudhary as summer interns this year. Welcome!


Green Lab Award to NNRL

Green Lab Certification

NNRL was awarded NIH Green Lab Certification for the 2022 program year. The NIH Green Labs Program recognizes laboratory personnel who embrace sustainable practices in their day-to-day activities. These practices include conserving energy and water, reducing waste and recycling, and collaborating with other NIH researchers to develop and share innovations.


Swaroop receives ARVO Friedenwald Award


Anand Swaroop, chief of the NEI Neurobiology, Neurodegeneration, and Repair Laboratory, was recognized by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) for his outstanding contributions to vision science and ophthalmology. ARVO will present the award to him at the 2024 annual ARVO meeting. Established in 1957, the award is a memorial to Dr. Jonas S. Friedenwald, a distinguished researcher whose contributions encompassed the entire field of ophthalmic investigations. More about the award on the ARVO website.


Extremely rare gene variants point to a potential cause of age-related macular degeneration


Anand Swaroop and colleagues in the NEI Neurobiology, Neurodegeneration, and Repair Laboratory identified rare genetic variants that could point to mechanisms driving age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The variants generate malformed proteins that alter the stability of the membrane attack complex (MAC), a cell membrane pore. This pore is the final step in the complement cascade, a part of the immune system that helps the body defend against pathogens. According to the researchers, MAC instability may drive chronic inflammation associated with AMD. NEI news story.


FDA-approved drug shows promise in lab models for blinding childhood disease


Anand Swaroop and colleagues in the NEI Neurobiology Neurodegeneration and Repair Laboratory discovered that the high blood pressure drug Reserpine, approved by the FDA in 1955, keeps light-sensitive photoreceptors alive in three models of Leber congenital amaurosis type 10, an inherited disease that causes vision loss in early childhood. NEI news brief.


Retinal Disease Symposium

Symposium group photo

The Retinal Disease Interest Group and the Neurobiology Neurodegeneration and Repair Laboratory hosted “Emerging horizons in retinal genetics, biology, and disease,” March 16-17, NIH campus. See the agenda on the NEI website. It was an extremely successful symposium where NNRL researchers could showcase their results to the top scientists in the field and got an opportunity to interact and learn from them.


Laura Campello receives ARVO travel grant and NIH Summer Research Intern Mentorship award

Laura Campello ARVO travel Award

NNRL member, Dr. Laura Campello Laura Campello is the recipient of a travel award at #ARVO2023!


Kamil Kruczek joins Spark Therapeutics, Inc. as Senior Research Scientist

Dr. Kamil Kruczek

NNRL researcher Dr. Kamil Kruczek joined Spark Therapeutics, Inc. as a Senior Research Scientist. Thank you for your outstanding contributions to NNRL and best wishes in the new role!


NNRL members receive NEI directors award

Laura Campello NEI Directors Awards 2022

  • Dr. Laura Campello received Spotlight on Mentoring Award and recognition for her contribution to NEI DEIA Council (National Eye Institute – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Council).
  • The NNRL Bioinformatics Group (Drs. Jayshree Advani, Zachary Batz, Matthew Brooks, Claire Marchal, Anupam Mondal) received NEI 2022 Director’s Award for outstanding and innovative contributions to NNRL genomics and genetics research and publications.


Scientists shine light on how eyes adapt to the dark

Anand SwaroopJohan Pahlberg

Anand Swaroop, NEI Neurobiology, Neurodegeneration, and Repair Laboratory, and Johan Pahlberg, NEI Photoreceptor Physiology Group, explained how the molecule transducin moves within light-sensing rod photoreceptors in mouse retina to help the eye quickly adapt from bright to low light and back. NEI news story.


NNRL Researchers get recognition at NEI Focus on Fellows 2022

NNRL Researchers get recognized

NNRL researchers got recognized at the annual NEI Focus on Fellows 2022. Congratulations to Laura, Jayshree, Mohita, Daniel and Kamil!


NNRL Celebrates Diwali 2022

NNRL celebrating Diwali

NNRL celebrated Diwali 2022 with Indian foods and traditional lamps. Diwali is the festival of light, a fitting celebration for our lab focused on photoreceptors!


Jaya Krishnan joins NNRL as a staff scientist

Jaya Krishnan, PhD has joined NNRL as a staff scientist. Dr. Krishnan completed her PhD with Dr. Rakesh Mishra at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India. Before coming to NIH, Dr. Krishnan worked with Dr. Nicolas Rohner at Stowers Institute in Kansas City studying metabolic adaptation in cavefish. Welcome Dr.  Krishnan!


NNRL runs NEI 5K 2022

NNRL runs NEI 5k

Several members of NNRL ran and others cheered for NEI Walk/Run/Roll 5K.


NNRL research appears in headlines

NNRL researchers Claire Marchal, Nivedita Singh, Zachary Batz, Jayshree Advani, Catherine Jaeger, Ximena Corso-Diaz led by Anand Swaroop, mapped the organization of human retinal cell chromatin, the fibers that package 3 billion nucleotide-long DNA molecules into compact structures that fit into chromosomes within each cell’s nucleus. The resulting comprehensive gene regulatory network provides insights into regulation of gene expression in general, and in retinal function, in both rare and common eye diseases. The study is now published in Nature Communications. More details: and Video highlight NEI made for the Hi-C paper.


Eunyoo Kim joins Center for Retinal Diseases & Surgery as Ophthalmic Technician

NNRL researcher Dr. Eunyoo Kim joined Center for Retinal Diseases & Surgery as an Ophthalmic Technician. Thank you for all your contributions to NNRL and best wishes in the new role!


Soumitra Pal joins NNRL as a staff scientist

Soumitra Pal, PhD has joined NNRL as a Staff Scientist. Before joining the lab, Dr. Pal earned a Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai, India) in the lab of Professor Abhiram Ranade. Most recently, Dr. Pal worked with Dr. Teresa Pryztycka at NCBI. Welcome Dr. Pal!


Trupti Shetty joins Harvard-MIT Center for Regulatory Science

NNRL researcher Dr. Trupti Shetty joined Harvard-MIT Center for Regulatory Science as a Research Fellow. Thank you for all your contributions to NNRL and best wishes in the new role!


Holly Chen joins UAB as assistant professor

Dr. Holly Chen

NNRL researcher Dr. Holly Chen joined University of Alabama at Birmingham as an Assistant Professor. Congratulations to Dr. Chen on her new appointment, we will miss you at NNRL!


Madison Luce & Fares Siddig join NNRL as postbacs

Madison Luce from Northwestern University and Fares Siddig from the University of Michigan have joined NNRL post-baccalaureates. Welcome!


Summer party @ NNRL

NNRL summer party 2022

Drs. Manju and Anand Swaroop hosted a summer party to thank our NEI/NIH colleagues (with family). Due to the pandemic, this is the first time the annual party has been held since 2019. The party included many NNRL collaborators, colleagues, and families. We also used the occasion to say farewell to lab members and welcome new colleagues.


Daniel Brock to join MD/PhD program at Baylor

NNRL celebrating Daniel Brock

NNRL postbac researcher Daniel Brock joined MD/PhD at Baylor College of Medicine. Thank you for all your contributions to NNRL and good luck with your graduate study!


Coco Jiang joins Cleveland Clinic as project scientist


NNRL researcher Dr. Coco Jiang joined Cleveland Clinic as a Project Scientist. Thank you for all your contributions to NNRL and good luck in the new role!

Podcast: The Stem Cell Report: Stem Cells in Translation: Focusing on the Eye

Anand Swaroop appears on the latest episode of the Stem Cell Report podcast alongside collaborators Mark Humayun and Masayo Takahasio to discuss recent research in regenerative medicine for eye disease. You can hear the podcast here: The Stem Cell Report Episode 201.


Take your child to work day 2022

Jayshree Advani and Laura Campello (picture top left and center) participated in Take Your Child to Work Day 2022. They gave future scientists a lesson in extracting DNA from strawberries. NEI also hosted a virtual eyeball dissection and a video on optical illusions.

farewell gathering

We held a farewell party to say goodbye to Coco Jiang and Ryan Kelley who are leaving our lab to take on new jobs at the Cleveland Clinic and PTC Therapeutics, respectively. Congratulations to both!

stem cells graph

Congratulations to Kamil Kruczek, his recent publication in Stem Cells has been highlighted as a high impact publication by the journal. Read the article here: Stem Cells.

Coco (Ke) JiangAnupam Mondal

“NEI researchers discover cellular events that precede neurodegenerative eye disease” – a new NEI press piece highlighting work from our lab led by Coco (Ke) Jiang and Anupam Mondal. Read the piece here: NEI news story

Noor White

Noor White, a former postdoc from our lab and current staff scientist in the NEI Biological Imaging Core, was profiled by the I am Intramural Blog. As a postdoc, White explored the evolution of vision in vertebrates. By uncovering genes crucial to vision, she has shed light on the genetic causes of retinal diseases. Intramural blog post

Lina Zelinger

Congratulations to Lina Zelinger for winning a travel award for outstanding presentation, titled “The message in the non-coding RNAs of the mammalian retina,” at the 41st annual meeting of the Israeli Society for Vision and Eye Research

Michael Power

Congratulations to Michael Power who has taken a job as a Technical Support Scientist at Abbott Pharmaceutical in Ireland!

Winners of NEI Director’s awards

Congratulations to all the winners of NEI Director’s awards from our lab. Lina Zelinger, Jayshree Advani, and Milton English (top row) received an award For outstanding innovative research in analyzing large families with age-related macular degeneration. Coco Jiang and Jacob Nellissery (middle row) were honored for technical excellence in developing methods for measuring mitochondrial function in the retina tissue ex vivo. Finally, Holly Chen and Kamil Kruczek (bottom row) received an award for outstanding achievements in developing therapies for retinal diseases.

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: August 8, 2023