José-Alain Sahel, MD, Eye and Ear Foundation Professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will be the first speaker in the 2017 Senior Vice Chancellor’s Laureate Lecture Series, a yearlong program featuring top biomedical researchers in their fields. Sahel’s talk, “Sight Restoration: From Neuroprotection to Artificial Vision,” will be given at noon on Thursday, January 12, in Lecture Room 6, Scaife Hall.  Add to Calendar

Sahel became chair of Pitt’s Department of Ophthalmology in July 2016, moving to Pittsburgh from Paris, where he had built an illustrious career as leader of some of the largest and most prestigious centers for ophthalmic research and clinical care in Europe. While he is now full time in Pittsburgh, he remains engaged from abroad as a professor of ophthalmology at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, the scientific and medical school of the Sorbonne, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at Quinze-Vingts National Ophthalmology Hospital, and founding director of the Institut de la Vision, a translational research center in Paris housing 320 investigators and staff focused on understanding vision and finding therapies for currently untreatable genetic and age-related eye diseases.

Sahel is a co-inventor on more than 40 patents, several of which formed the basis of start-up companies, including Fovéa Pharmaceuticals, which later became an ophthalmologic division of Sanofi-Aventis. He is a scientific cofounder of several companies, including GenSight Biologics S.A., which focuses on gene therapy-based approaches for mitochondrial and neurodegenerative diseases of the eye and central nervous system, and Pixium Vision, which develops innovative bionic vision restoration systems. Sahel is also exploring the use of brain-computer interface technology for vision-correcting applications.

Sahel’s numerous honors and awards include the Emilia Valori Grand Prix of the French Academy of Sciences and the Gold Medal of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences of France, the National Academy of Sciences of Germany, and the Collège de France, the highest honor granted to French scientists. He received his MD from the Paris University Medical School and completed residency training in ophthalmology, neurosurgery, and neurology at the Louis Pasteur University Hospital in Strasbourg. He was a research fellow at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a visiting scholar in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University.