News Releases

April 9, 2014

Emory Eye Center Director Olsen receives prestigious FFB Visionary Award


Media contact: Joy Bell, 404-778-3711, jbell@emory.edu

(Atlanta) Emory Eye Center Director Timothy W. Olsen, MD, the F. Phinizy Calhoun Sr. Professor of Ophthalmology, received the prestigious Visionary Award, bestowed by the Foundation Fighting Blindness during its April "For the Love of Sight" event in Washington, D.C. The honor was given for his longstanding commitment as a researcher and clinician. Olsen accepted the honor on behalf of the Emory Eye Center's research team, as they develop new technologies for improving patients with degenerative retinal diseases.

Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) is a national not-for profit organization supporting sight-saving research. The annual event benefits research to enable preventions, treatments and cures for vision-threatening retinal diseases including macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa (RP), Usher syndrome and related conditions that affect more than 10 million Americans.

Raising more than $5 million since its inception in 2003, "For the Love of Sight" was created by former Secretary of Labor Ann McLaughlin Korologos (1987-89) and retired Burson-Marsteller COO Ken Rietz, who built an impressive career despite visual impairment from RP. FFB reports that over the past decade, the critical funds raised through the event have supported advancements in the development of gene, stem cell-based and pharmaceutical therapies.

In 2007-08, Rietz participated in a study as a patient in Emory Eye Center. A special protein delivery retinal implant was placed into one eye of RP patients. "Since then, we've entered an era of clinical trials, where gene therapy is restoring vision in children and young adults. Devices such as the 'bionic retina' are now available to patients. New drugs, with vision-saving potential, are being tested, and stem cells are being transformed into retinal cells."

Ryuji Ueno, MD, PhD, co-founder of Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Ph.D., was also honored with a Visionary Award at the event.

At Emory, Olsen's patient care is coupled with work focused on the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration as well as novel surgical strategies for end-stage disease. He also collaborates with many talented scientists at Emory and at other institutions who study the pharmacokinetics of drug delivery and also investigate novel agents to treat retinal and macular degenerations, including RP. Olsen holds leadership positions in the American Ophthalmologic Society (AOS), the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the Macula and Retina Societies, and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). In 2013, he received both the Gold Fellow Award from ARVO and the Secretariat Award from AAO. He received his medical degree at the University of Kansas, completed his residency at the University of Minnesota and a fellowship in vitreoretinal diseases and surgery at Emory Eye Center.

"I accept this honor on behalf of my research team at Emory," says Olsen. "We have a remarkable group of retinal researchers who are making exciting discoveries about slowing degenerations of the retina. I'm also very optimistic that in the near future, we will bring innovative new treatments directly to patient care, in a data-driven, ethical manner."

Serving as Master of Ceremonies was ABC7/WJLA-TV Anchor Alison Starling, whose sister-in-law is affected with Usher syndrome, a genetic disease that robs both vision and hearing. "For the Love of Sight's" 2014 dinner co-chairs are former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Edilia Gutierrez; former ambassador Tom Korologos and Ann McLaughlin Korologos; Ken Rietz and Ursula Landsrath; and Bill Carty and Colleen Carty. The event's honorary co-chairs are Donna and Bill Marriott, and Foundation Fighting Blindness Co-Founder and Chairman Gordon Gund and fellow Co-Founder Llura Gund.

Foundation Fighting Blindness

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is a national non-profit organization driving the research that will lead to preventions, treatments and cures for retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Usher syndrome and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases that affect more than 10 million Americans. Since 1971, the Foundation has raised nearly $550 million as the leading non-governmental funder of inherited retinal research. Breakthrough Foundation-funded studies using gene therapy have restored significant vision in children and young adults who were previously blind, paving the way for additional clinical trials to treat a variety of retinal degenerative diseases. With a coveted four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the Foundation also has nearly 50 chapters that provide support, information and resources to affected individuals and their families in communities across the country.

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