Dr. José-Alain Sahel is the chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of the UPMC Eye Center, and the Eye and Ear Foundation Chair of Ophthalmology. Dr. Sahel, who was born in Algeria, studied medicine at Strasbourg University and in Lariboisière, Saint-Louis. He received his medical degree with a Medal of the Faculty of Paris and obtained his specialty certification in ophthalmology. He completed a residency in neurology and neurosurgery at the Louis Pasteur University Hospital in Strasbourg. He also was a research fellow at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a visiting scholar in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University. Dr. Sahel is the founder and director of the Vision Institute in Paris and currently a professor at the Sorbonne’s medical school Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie.
Dr. Sahel is known worldwide for his expertise in vision restoration techniques. He has developed several interventions— including stem cell implantation, gene therapy, innovative pharmacologic approaches, and the artificial retina—for retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, vascular eye disease, and other vision impairments that currently are untreatable. Over the past decade he has led pioneering efforts in optogenetic vision restoration, a technique in which cells in the retina are genetically modified to express light sensitive proteins. This therapeutic technique has the potential to help patients who are blind or visually impaired as a result of a genetic defect. Dr. Sahel also brings a strong neuroscience perspective to ophthalmology research, such as exploring the application of brain-computer interface technology.
Dr. Sahel is a co-inventor on more than 40 patents, several of which have led to start-up companies including Fovéa Inc., which Dr. Sahel founded and later became the Ophthalmologic Division of Sanofi Aventis. He also is a scientific co-founder of GenSight Biologics Inc. and Pixium Vision Inc. He is a member of 11 editorial boards, including the Journal of Clinical Investigation and Science Translational Medicine.
He also holds the positions of Cumberlege Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, and chairman of the Departments of Ophthalmology at the Quinze-Vingts National Eye Hospital and at the Rothschild Ophthalmology Foundation, both in Paris. At the Paris-based Ophthalmology Clinical Investigation Center, he oversees more than 50 clinical trials, many of which are focused on retinal implants, gene therapy, and other advanced biomedical technologies. He also heads the French National Reference Center for Retinal Dystrophies and chairs a network of more than 90 European clinical trial centers focused on retinal diseases.
Dr. Sahel has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, which include membership in the Legion of Honour (2008), the National Order of Merit (2002), and induction into the Collège de France, the highest honor awarded to a French scientist. He is an elected member of the Académie des sciences-Institut de France, the Académie des technologies, the Academia Ophthalmologia Internationalis, and the German National Academy of Sciences. He has also received the Grand Prix for Neurosciences of the Foundation NRJ, Institut de France; the CNRS Medal of Innovation; the Foundation for Fighting Blindness Trustee Award; and the Liura Liggett-Gund Award, among others. Dr. Sahel holds an honorary degree from the University of Geneva.
View a list of Dr. Sahel’s publications here.