Leo A. Kim, MD, PhD, Receives 2022 Iraty Award for Research in Retinal Diseases

July 25, 2022

Dr. Leo KimThis year’s Iraty Award for Research in Retinal Diseases honors Leo A. Kim, MD, PhD, an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Monte J. Wallace Ophthalmology Chair in Retina at Mass Eye and Ear. The award, which includes a $100,000 prize, was established thanks to a generous donation by François C. Delori, PhD, Professor of Ophthalmology, Emeritus at HMS, and his wife, Rosamond Castle Putnam, to pay tribute to the life and work of Dr. Charles Schepens—the father of modern retinal surgery and a World War II hero. Dr. Kim—a retina surgeon and researcher at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass Eye and Ear, and a dedicated teacher and mentor—shares many commonalities with Dr. Schepens.

This award will support Dr. Kim’s research on netarsudil and topotecan for the treatment of proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR). This disease is the most common cause for failure of rhegmatogenous retinal detachment repair (RRD)—occurring in five-to-ten percent of retinal detachment repair cases. PVR is characterized by the growth and proliferation of cellular membranes that ultimately contract leading to tractional retinal detachments. Dr. Kim and his research team have performed extensive work on identifying potential therapies for PVR using their own in vitro patient-derived models of PVR and have identified two new potential drugs for the treatment of PVR: netarsudil and topotecan.

Netarsudil is a Rho-kinase and epinephrine transport inhibitor that is FDA-approved for lowering intraocular pressure in patients with ocular hypertension or primary open angle glaucoma. Topotecan is a topoisomerase 1 inhibitor that is currently used for the intravitreal treatment of retinoblastoma as a chemotherapeutic agent. Dr. Kim and his team aim to investigate the underlying molecular mechanisms of these two molecules using their in vitro and in vivo models.  Additionally, they aim to analyze PVR membranes with single cell RNA sequencing specifically evaluating the Rho-kinase pathway, and topoisomerase 1 activation. Their ultimate goal is to support proof of concept clinicals trial using these compounds for the treatment of PVR.