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Subspecialties Retina, Basic & Translational Research, Professional Development

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Who were your mentors?

I was very lucky that, when I did my residency at the University of Illinois, an incredible group of people were based there who really shaped my career: Morton Goldberg, Gholam Peyman, Lee Jampol, Joel Sugar, and Gerald Fishman. They supported my aspirations and I have to credit them all.

What one piece of your research have you found the most rewarding?

I was a first-year resident during the AIDS crisis. People were dying from the disease, but they were first going blind from cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis. Many would tell me that they were more concerned about blindness than death – it was terrible. At that time, there was a new drug that had yet to be approved by the FDA, called BWB759U. It was being considered for systematic use in CMV retinitis cases, as well as CMV pneumonitis and gastrointestinal problems. It occurred to me that, if I could inject BWB759U directly into the eye, I might be able to help these people. With the approval of Morton Goldberg – then Chairman of the University of Illinois Hospital – and the help of Gholam Peyman and my future wife, Colleen Howe, we did some ERG studies on rabbits and showed that the drug would create very little toxicity. A patient who was rapidly losing vision wanted to receive the drug on a compassionate plea basis – and we managed to save his vision! That drug was subsequently named ganciclovir and went on to save the vision of countless others.

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