24 January 2024

LiU researchers Neil Lagali and Mehrdad Rafat earn global acclaim, winning ARVO Foundation's 2023 Point of View Award. Recognized by the world's largest eye research organization, their groundbreaking work in regenerative ophthalmology offers new hope for vision restoration.

Neil Lagai and Mehrdad Rafat. Neil Lagali, professor at Linköping University, and Mehrdad Rafat, adjunct senior lecturer at Linköping University and founder of the company LinkoCare Life Sciences AB. Thor Balkhed

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) Foundation announced the laureates of the 2023 Point of View Award. Neil Lagali, professor from Linköping University, and Mehrdad Rafat, adjunct senior lecturer from Linköping University and founder of LinkoCare Life Sciences AB /NaturaLens AB, Sweden, have been recognized for their remarkable work in regenerative ophthalmology. This prestigious accolade acknowledges outstanding scholarly contributions to the realm of vision restoration and the award provides a $20,000 cash prize. 

Lagali and Rafat's award-winning article

Lagali and Rafat's groundbreaking article, titled 'Bioengineered corneal tissue for minimally invasive vision restoration in advanced keratoconus in two clinical cohorts' (Nature Biotechnology; Aug. 11, 2022), addresses the challenges of treating advanced keratoconus (a condition when the normally round cornea becomes thin and develops a cone-like bulge). Their innovative approach involves bioengineering implantable corneal tissue and utilizing a less invasive surgical method. This method successfully restored vision to legally blind patients with advanced keratoconus, some achieving 20/20 vision postoperatively.

Future steps and global impact

Close up of eye and femtolaser.Close up of eye and femtolaser. Photo credit Thor Balkhed Neil Lagali expresses gratitude for the award, emphasizing its role in setting up larger clinical trials to validate the approach in a broader patient population.

"This we hope will ultimately lead to an off-the-shelf solution for corneal implantation that does not depend on donated tissue or eye banks, that could potentially benefit many people globally. I have dedicated my research career to helping to treat or prevent vision impairment and loss, and this award motivates me to continue to pursue these efforts," says Lagali.

Rafat adds that "This award means a lot to me and my team as it recognizes 20 years of our research and development activities toward developing a new device that can help people who are suffering from corneal blindness and impaired vision."

The accolade is expected to attract expertise, investors, and industry professionals, advancing the necessary clinical trials, regulatory processes, certification, and scaled-up production for the project's success.

Advancing eye research globally

As the largest eye and vision research organization globally, ARVO continues to champion research into understanding the visual system and addressing its disorders. The Point of View Award, established by the Point of View Foundation, aligns with ARVO's mission to support groundbreaking research efforts that contribute to the prevention, treatment, and cure of eye-related disorders.

About ARVO

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) boasts a membership of approximately 10,000 eye and vision researchers from over 75 countries. Learn more at ARVO.org.

Established in 2001, the ARVO Foundation for Eye Research raises funds to support ARVO’s education and career development resources for eye and vision researchers. Learn more at ARVOFoundation.org.

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