Dr. Brian Ballios has restored vision in mice, but he is not stopping there. He is on a mission to develop stem cell therapies for people living with blindness and has a plan to get there.
Dr. Ballios and other clinician-scientists are essential players in the translation of pre-clinical vision research into clinical trials and ultimately into new sight-saving treatments. For this reason, the FFB launched a special award designed to support early career clinician-scientists who are committed to developing and testing innovative treatments.
We are thrilled to announce Dr. Brian Ballios as the inaugural recipient of the Foundation Fighting Blindness Clinician-Scientist Emerging Leader Award.
The FFB Clinician-Scientist Emerging Leader Award is made possible by support from the Bank of Montreal (BMO). Thanks to BMO, Dr. Ballios will have essential support that will allow him to develop a truly patient-centred research program. The Emerging Leader Award aims to strengthen the community of clinician-scientists with ophthalmology expertise by awarding ophthalmologists-in-training with research funding valued at $40,000 per year for a period of up to 4 years. By investing in the next generation of ophthalmologists, the Emerging Leader Award will ensure that they are ready to be on the front lines, designing and testing experimental treatments.
With his new research funding, Dr. Ballios will focus on developing stem cell transplantation therapies for inherited retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Caring for patients who are living with blinding eye diseases motivates and informs Dr. Ballios’ research: “Through my role as a physician, I am struck by the immense personal toll of eye disease. It is enormously exciting to be in a research field that has the potential to make tremendous improvements in a patient’s quality of life.”
Dr. Ballios’ background in medicine, biomedical engineering, and stem cell biology has allowed him to develop a unique research plan that uses biomaterials to deliver stem cells to the eye. At present, he is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences and also a third-year resident in Ophthalmology at the University of Toronto. His stem cell research involves generating the light-sensitive photoreceptor cells that are lost in certain diseases and then transplanting these cells directly into the retina. Dr. Ballios is testing new approaches to help the transplanted cells survive and make connections in the damaged eye.
Being trained as both a physician and a scientist provides Dr. Ballios with a unique perspective that balances the urgency from patients with the necessity for safe, evidence-based therapies. When we asked Dr. Ballios about his future career goals, he explained that he is focused on developing his research until it is ready for a “first-in-human” clinical trial. We look forward to learning more about his research as he works towards achieving this goal, which is shared by all of us at the FFB!
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