Professor and Chairman of The Department of Ophthalmology, Ruprecht-Karls University of Heidelberg; Director of the IVCRC and The David J Apple International Laboratory of Ocular Pathology at The University-Eye Clinic of Heidelberg, Germany
Gerd is one of the world’s leading intraocular lens experts: their design, in terms of optics, haptics, and materials, and their surgical implantation, their safety and occasionally, their pathology too. If an IOL has to be explanted, and if there’s an issue with it, it’s more likely than not it will be sent to the D.J. Apple lab (which Gerd leads) for analysis – his group is responsible for the post-market surveillance of many of the IOLs available today.
What have been your career highlights?
“The first highlight of my career was the two-year postdoc research fellowship at Storm Eye Institute at the Medical University of South Carolina. There I worked at David Apple’s Center for IOL Research with a stipend from the Max Kade Foundation. This really boosted my interest in IOLs and my career. Later, of course, a big highlight was becoming the Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Heidelberg. Other highlights included the transfer from David’s Lab to Heidelberg, the presidency and board membership in national and international societies.”
What are your goals for the future?
“There are a lot of goals I want to achieve with my clinic. Strengthen specific subspecialties, introduce and continue to develop new surgical techniques in our field and develop people (my staff) to become better surgeons and leaders in the field.”
What has been your most successful collaboration?
“In recent years the most successful collaboration was the work with the department of applied mathematics here at the Heidelberg University. We are able to simulate and create mathematical models in the field of biomaterial degradation, fluidics in glaucoma and intravitreal application of drugs. From this, we develop a “virtual eye” that can be used in ophthalmic research. These projects were funded by the K. Tschira Foundation to the tune of €2 million.”
What are your plans for the next 10 years?
“The next 10 years, I will continue with the projects I indicated above and use my networking skills and experience in research to get even more involved in innovations and even startups. I see my academic background, especially with the University of Heidelberg, as an important addition to that. However, getting involved with startups and even work on the board of some organizations has broadened my horizon and motivates me to go for more in that area.”
What drives you day-to-day?
“The feedback you get from patients after successful surgery makes our job very rewarding. The combination of patient care, research and teaching is very fulfilling. However, this only works out, if my family is behind me, which is essentially the driving force as well as a base for me.”
Who have been your mentors?
“In the early days, Wilfried Hunold from Aachen, Germany, was my teacher and mentor. He introduced me to David Apple who perhaps had the biggest impact on me. Other people who helped me a lot were Klaus Tschira (Former Founder of the SAP Software Company, Chair of the K. Tschira Foundation) and Krzysztof Palczewsky from the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He motivated me to start projects outside IOL research.”
Suggested articles with Gerd as co-author:
A Brief History of IOL Materials