We are very happy to share some wonderful and exciting news about Asst. Prof. Philip Kiser, who is part of the Palczewski group cluster hire. He has just been told that he is the 2020 recipient of the Pisart Award in Vision Science given by the Lighthouse Guild. The Pisart Award was established in 1981 and has annually recognized an early-career vision clinician, scientist or clinician-scientist whose contributions have the potential to substantially influence vision care and/or vision science and has a proven record of accomplishment. Philip is known for his structural and pharmacological studies on the vertebrate visual cycle, a metabolic pathway responsible for maintaining the light-sensing activity of retinal photoreceptors. He has contributed to our understanding of the molecular mechanism of the key retinoid isomerase of this pathway known as RPE65 through determination of crystal structures of this protein in a variety of ligand-bound states. Some of these ligands are drug candidates known as visual cycle modulators that are currently in clinical testing for various retinopathies. This work has provided a means to dissect the molecular pharmacodynamics of visual cycle modulators as well as improve their pharmacological properties through rational design approaches. This is a huge award to Philip, as it is one of the most important awards in the field of vision research. The list of historic winners going back 40 years is spectacular! Prior recipients include true giants in the field of ophthalmology including former NEI chiefs Kupfer and Sieving, as well as luminaries such as Professors Maumanee, Patz, Machemer, and Cogan, who have been the most important leaders in the field over the past several decades. This is really quite a spectacular honor.
–Dr. Baruch Kuppermann, Roger F. Steinert Professor, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, and Director of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute in the School of Medicine at UCI.