Dr. Eric Pierce
Dr. Eric Pierce received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He did his residency in Ophthalmology at Harvard and fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital, Boston where he also took his first faculty position. He was then recruited to the department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. He returned to Harvard in 2011 to establish the Ocular Genomics Institute.
Dr. Pierce is an ophthalmologist and molecular geneticist whose research program is dedicated to understanding the molecular mechanisms of inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs), and improving therapeutic interventions for these conditions. IRDs are a leading cause of blindness worldwide, and are characterized by progressive dysfunction and death of retinal photoreceptor cells.
Dr. Pierce’s research program is focused on identifying new IRD disease genes, investigating the mechanism by which mutations in the identified genes lead to blindness, and using this information about disease pathogenesis to develop rational therapies to prevent vision loss.
Basil Pawlyk graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Chemistry. He then went on to earn a Master of Science degree (Neuroscience) from Northeastern University in 1982. His thesis work focused on CNS prostaglandin mediated pathways, which control body temperature and the febrile response to infection. During his graduate studies, Basil also participated in teaching General Physiology and Histology to undergraduates. Basil joined the Berman-Gund Laboratory of the MEEI in 1982 and focused on the functional (ERG) and structural (Histology) characterization of new animal models of RD. More recently, Basil’s work has involved evaluating various treatment strategies in mouse models of RD. This has included dietary supplementation (Vitamin A) in rhodopsin mutant mice and viral mediated gene augmentation therapy in a mouse model of X-linked RP and mouse models of LCA (AIPL1 and RPGRIP1). Basil is now a member of the Ocular Genomics Institute and is currently involved in Pre-Clinical animal studies related to RPGRIP1 LCA.
Carol Weigel DiFranco, graduated from Regis College with a BA in Psychology and Tufts University with a MA in Child Study/Developmental Psychology with an emphasis on research, has worked with clinicians and researchers diagnosing and studying patients with Inherited Retinal Disorders since 1986. She served as the data manager of the Berman Gund , where she participated with Dr. Eliot Berson and colleagues in the design and execution of 3 clinical trials of nutritional supplements for patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa and several natural history studies for patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa and allied diseases. She also worked with patients and staff as the Manager of the Inherited Retinal Disorders Service . Currently she works with researchers in the Pierce Lab, OGI and Berman Gund Lab doing data management and facilitating the conduct of several clinical trials .She also provides administrative support to researchers in these labs.
Mike Scandura graduated from Tufts University in 2018 with a BS in Biology and a minor in History. As an undergraduate, he studied the relationship between psychosocial stress and alcoholism in adolescent mice as well as worked on an MGMT methylation study for patients with glioblastomas at Tufts Medical School.
Mike joined the Ocular Genomics Institute in September of 2018 as a research technologist for Dr. Scott Greenwald.
Dr. Heran Getachew received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with an emphasis in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Florida in September 2019. Her dissertation work focused on the intracellular survival mechanisms of an oral bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis, within cardiovascular cells in the context of atherosclerosis. She joined the Ocular Genomics Institute in November 2019 to study extracellular vesicles as a biomarker for retinal degenerations.Heran_Getachew@meei.harvard.edu
Affiliations: Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; Harvard Ophthalmology.
Dr. Emily Brown obtained her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Connecticut. She went on to earn her PhD in Biomedical Sciences with concentrations in both Genetics and Clinical and Translational Science from the University of Florida in 2019. There she examined the molecular mechanisms of mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the retina and how metabolic dysfunction may lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other retinal degenerative diseases. Emily joined the Ocular Genomics Institute in June 2019 as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Emily’s current projects include:
1) Investigation of how mutations in NMNAT1, an enzyme involved in energy metabolism in all cell types, leads to an early-onset retinal degenerative disease known as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).
2) Development of AAV-mediated gene therapies for LCA caused by mutations in NMNAT1.
3) Identification of novel genetic causes of inherited retinal degenerations.