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Manchester scientist wins national vision award

20 Aug 2018

Dr Simon Clark named Rising Star of the Year

Dr Simon Clark

MRC Career Development Fellow, Dr Simon Clark, from the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, has been recognised for his contributions to vision research and ophthalmology with a Rising Star of the Year award from leading sight loss charity, the Macular Society.

Dr Clark, who is based in the School of Biological Sciences and is a member of the new Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation, will receive the award for his work studying the role of the immune system in a leading cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD, primarily a genetically driven disease, is estimated to affect up to 190 million people worldwide by the year 2020. Failure to properly regulate the activation of the complement system (part of the immune system) drives disease pathogenesis and has been identified as a major target for therapeutic interventions in the disease.

As well as leading international efforts to investigate the mechanisms behind AMD pathogenesis, Dr Clark and colleagues have also developed a new drug for the condition named Coalexin, designed specifically for sustained delivery into the back of the eye where it needs to be effective.

Commenting on the award, Dr Clark said: “It’s a great honour to be recognised for all the hard work. Manchester is in such a unique position to be a world leading institution for ophthalmology and vision sciences. We have Europe’s largest Eye Bank, and we founded here Europe’s only Eye Tissue Repository, supplying human eye tissue for research across the globe. There is no better way to understand and prevent blindness than to use actual human tissue.

“Our exciting translational work has caused quite a stir in the AMD field. We’re currently in talks with various investors, and working our way through the pre-clinical workup with the aim to have Coalexin in phase I clinical trials in the next two years.”

Dr Clark is an active member of a Steering Group established by the University’s intellectual property company UMIP following the identification of ophthalmology and vision sciences as one of their keys areas of interest. The group aims to raise the profile of the translational potential of this area of research and facilitate its transfer into industry.

Dr Rich Ferrie, UMIP Director of Operations said, “We are delighted that Simon has been recognised in this way. I can’t think of a worthier recipient of this award which is clearly well deserved. It’s been our pleasure to help Simon build a robust IP platform on which to build his further developments and we are hopeful that in due course an effective treatment for AMD be of benefit to patients.”

Dr Clark will receive his award at the Macular Society’s national annual conference in London in September where he will also be presenting an overview of current research into AMD.