David M. Wu, MD, PhD, the Joan Whitten Miller Retina Scholar at Mass Eye and Ear and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, is a 2021 recipient of the Edward N. & Della L. Thome Memorial Foundation Awards Program in Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Research. The two-year grant will provide critical funding for Dr. Wu’s AMD research, which seeks to explore the interplay between the retina, RPE, and the development of early macular degeneration. By better understanding the molecular processes underlying this complex physiology, he hopes to identify new therapies to halt the progression to advanced macular degeneration and vision loss.
The Edward N. & Della L. Thome Memorial Foundation was created in 2002 to advance the health of older adults through the support of direct service projects and medical research on diseases and disorders affecting older adults. In keeping with the Foundation’s mission, the goal of the Awards Program is to support translational research that will lead to improved therapies for individuals suffering from AMD.
Dr. Wu is a clinician-scientist, combining a vitreoretinal surgery practice at Mass Eye and Ear and a basic science research program incorporating the latest molecular techniques to find new treatments for retinal disease. His research team uses advanced techniques such as RNA-Seq and AAV gene therapy in order to study the pathogenesis of retinal diseases and develop new treatment opportunities.
Most recently, Dr. Wu’s recent research led to the development of an AAV-delivered gene therapy that overexpresses Nrf2 in the RPE of a mouse model of retinal degeneration, rescuing the cones and RPE, and preserving visual function. This work is now in press at JCI Insight, and is being considered as a candidate for clinical use. Dr. Wu is involved in collaborative studies with scientists at Harvard Medical School on gene-therapy related viral toxicity, and the role of retinal metabolism in degeneration. He is a past recipient of a National Eye Institute K08 grant, the Mass Eye and Ear Iraty Award for Research in Retinal Diseases, and has been named a Top Doctor by Boston magazine four times.