Vision Medicines
Our Team

Our Team

Advisory Board
Chris Varma

Chris Varma, PhD

Chairman & CEO

Chris co-founded Vision Medicines in May 2013. In September 2010, Chris co-founded Blueprint Medicines, a leading oncology therapeutics company located in Cambridge, MA. Chris served as Blueprint’s president, chief executive

officer, and director from its founding to May 2013, where he built the Company, including developing the corporate and scientific strategy, recruiting a world class team, and raising $40M in a Series-A financing from Third Rock Ventures and Fidelity Bio. Blueprint Medicines went public in April 2015 (Nasdaq: BPMC). Previously at Third Rock Ventures as an entrepreneur-in-residence, Chris also co-founded and led Warp Drive Bio, which executed a $125M strategic partnership with Sanofi. Prior to Third Rock Ventures, Chris was a partner at Flagship Ventures focusing on life science investments such as Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals, which went public in March 2013 (Nasdaq: TTPH). During his last year at Flagship, he also served as the president, chief executive officer and director of Selventa, Inc. (f.k.a. Genstruct, Inc.), a Flagship portfolio company. Before joining Flagship, he oversaw efforts spanning clinical development, business development and sales and marketing at Novartis AG. Prior to Novartis, he was at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the Office of Combination Products and at Millennium Pharmaceuticals in the Personalized Medicines group. Chris holds a PhD in biomedical sciences from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology through the joint division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), a MS in Management of Science and Engineering from Stanford University, a MS in Computer Science from Stanford University, and a BS in Computer Science from Stanford University.

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Reza Dana

Reza Dana, MD, MPH, MSc

Scientific Co-founder

Reza Dana, a scientific co-founder and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of Vision Medicines Inc., is Professor of Ophthalmology and the Claes Dohlman Chair in Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Dana is an

ophthalmologist and an immunologist, with a particular interest in the molecular and cellular mechanisms of inflammation and immunity in the eye, and how immune homeostasis is perturbed in aging and autoimmunity. In addition to his position as Senior Scientist and W. Clement Stone Scholar at The Schepens Eye Research Institute/Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Dr. Dana is a member of the Committee on Immunology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Dana has authored over 350 peer-reviewed articles and reviews, and is on the editorial boards of several journals, including serving as Associate Editor for Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (IOVS). Dr. Dana is a recipient of numerous national and international awards for his many contributions to the fields of ophthalmology and immunology. In addition, Dr. Dana is a scientific co-founder and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board at Eleven Biotherapeutics, and serves on advisory boards of several other biotech and pharma companies.

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Jonae R. Barnes

Jonae R. Barnes

Corporate Development and Communications Consultant

Jonae works with Vision Medicines in the areas of corporate development, investor relations and corporate communications. Her experience in strategic investor and corporate communications spans the full life cycle of drug

development and commercialization. Prior to working with Vision Medicines, she served as Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications at Agenus, an immuno-oncology company. Prior to Agenus, she held a series of progressively responsible management and executive roles over a 14-year period at Sepracor, a specialty pharmaceutical company, most recently serving as Senior Vice President, Investor Relations, Corporate Communications and Internal Communications. In addition to her corporate appointments, Jonae has advised privately-held and publicly-traded biotech companies through her investor relations consulting practice in the therapeutic areas of respiratory disorders, infectious diseases, IBS, diabetes, and oncology. During her career, she has helped to raise over $2 billion dollars in common stock offerings and convertible notes. Jonae holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Suffolk University and master’s degrees in financial economics and multinational commerce from Boston University.

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Scientific Advisory Board

Reza Dana

Reza Dana, MD, MPH, MSc

Harvard Medical School, Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary, Schepens Eye Research Institute

Scientific Co-Founder and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of Vision Medicines

Reza Dana, a scientific co-founder and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of Vision Medicines Inc., is Professor of Ophthalmology and the Claes Dohlman Chair in Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Dana is an ophthalmologist and an immunologist, with a particular interest in the molecular and cellular mechanisms of inflammation and immunity in the eye, and how immune homeostasis is perturbed in aging and autoimmunity. In addition to his position as Senior Scientist and W. Clement Stone Scholar at The Schepens Eye Research Institute/Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Dr. Dana is a member of the Committee on Immunology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Dana has authored over 350 peer-reviewed articles and reviews, and is on the editorial boards of several journals, including serving as Associate Editor for Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (IOVS). Dr. Dana is a recipient of numerous national and international awards for his many contributions to the fields of ophthalmology and immunology. In addition, Dr. Dana is a scientific co-founder and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board at Eleven Biotherapeutics, and serves on advisory boards of several other biotech and pharma companies.

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Dean Bok

Dean Bok, PhD

Distinguished Professor, Neurobiology | Professor, Ophthalmology

Member, Brain Research Institute, Jules Stein Eye Institute

Dr. Bok studies mechanisms whereby membrane receptors, retinoid binding proteins, and enzymes mediate the vectorial uptake, processing and release of retinoids by the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). He also explores mechanisms whereby the RPE cells develop the polarity required for their diverse functions. A second major research effort involves the study of molecular mechanisms underlying degeneration of retinal photoreceptors. These degenerations come under the general disease categories of retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration in humans. Retinitis pigmentosa is a family of inherited blinding diseases. Macular degeneration can be either age related or inherited. The third field of study involves photoreceptor-RPE interactions in health and disease. This includes the development of transgenic mice in which the expression of a wild-type gene or its mutant counterpart can be induced by the administration of doxycycline. Major techniques used in Dr. Bok's research include electron microscopy, laser confocal microscopy, light and electron microscopic autoradiography, cell culture, immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization cytochemistry, molecular cloning/sequencing and analysis of transgenic animals. Contributions include the discovery of photoreceptor outer segment disc shedding, phagocytosis of these membranes by the RPE, the failure of this process in rat mutants (rdy), detection of membrane receptors for the uptake and release of retinoids by the RPE, transgenic rescue of inherited degeneration in mice carrying the rds mutation and the modeling of the equivalent human disease in mice through the introduction of point mutations in the mouse rds gene.

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Napoleone Ferrara

Napoleone Ferrara, MD

Senior Deputy Director for Basic Science

University of California, San Diego

Napoleone Ferrara, MD, joined UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center after a storied career in Northern California at the biotechnology giant Genentech, where he pioneered development of new treatments for cancer and age-related macular degeneration. There, he discovered vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)—and made the first VEGF antibody—which suppresses growth of a variety of tumors. These findings helped lead to development of the first clinically available anti-angiogenesis inhibitor drug, bevacizumab (Avastin), which prevents the growth of new blood vessels into a solid tumor and which has become part of standard treatment for a variety of cancers. Dr. Ferrara’s work led also to the development of ranibizumab (Lucentis), a drug that is highly effective at preventing vision loss in intraocular neovascular disorders.


At Moores Cancer Center, Dr. Ferrara serves as Senior Deputy Director for Basic Science and is a Distinguished Professor of Pathology in the UC San Diego School of Medicine, where he continues cancer drug research targeting angiogenesis. He is presently focusing on investigating mechanisms of tumor angiogenesis alternative to VEGF, in particular the role of factors produced by myeloid cells and fibroblasts in mediating resistance to VEGF inhibitors.


In February 2013, Dr. Ferrara was named one of 11 recipients of the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. He has also won numerous other awards, including the General Motors Cancer Research Award (2006), the ASCO Science of Oncology Award (2007), the Pezcoller Foundation/AACR International Award (2009), the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (2010), the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research (2011), and The Economist’s Innovation Award for bioscience in 2012.

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Jeffrey S. Heier

Jeffrey S. Heier, MD

Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston

Jeffrey S. Heier, M.D., is the Director of the Vitreoretinal Service and the Director of Retina Research at Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston (OCB) and the Co-Director of the Vitreoretinal Fellowship at OCB/Tufts School of Medicine. He is one of the leading retinal clinical researchers in the country for new treatments in exudative and non-exudative macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema, venous occlusive disease, vitreoretinal surgical techniques and instrumentation, and diagnostic imaging of the retina.


Dr. Heier is on the Executive Board of the Retina Society, the Board of the American Society of Retina Specialists, and Vice President of the New England Ophthalmological Society. He is a scientific advisor to over thirty biotechnical or pharmaceutical companies, lectures nationally and internationally on research and innovative approaches to the treatment of retinal diseases, and has authored numerous works in peer-reviewed journals.


Dr. Heier received his medical degree from Boston University, then did a transitional internship and ophthalmology residency at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. Between his internship and residency, he served as a physician in a Combat Support Hospital in the Persian Gulf War, where he was awarded a Bronze Star. Dr. Heier then completed a vitreoretinal fellowship at OCB/Tufts School of Medicine.

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Lincoln V. Johnson

Lincoln V. Johnson, PhD

Research Scientist and Associate Director

Center for the Study of Macular Degeneration, University of California, Santa Barbara

Dr. Johnson is a Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Macular Degeneration, a biomedical research unit dedicated to studies of basic cellular and molecular processes that cause the blinding human disease known as age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Johnson received his undergraduate training in Biology at the University of California, Riverside and pursued doctoral studies in the Department of Cell and Neurobiology at UC San Francisco's School of Medicine. Subsequently, he performed postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Johnson then served on the faculty of the Department of Cell and Neurobiology at the University of Southern California, School of Medicine for fifteen years prior to joining the Neuroscience Research Institute at UCSB in 1995.

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Eric A. Pierce

Eric A. Pierce, MD, PhD

Solman and Libe Friedman Associate Professor of Ophthalmology

Director of the Ocular Genomics Institute

Director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations, and Director of the Electroretinography (ERG) Service in the Department of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School


Dr. Pierce is an ophthalmologist and molecular geneticist whose research program is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs), and developing improved treatments for these conditions. IRDs are a leading cause of blindness worldwide, and are characterized by progressive dysfunction and death of retinal photoreceptor cells. Dr. Pierce’s lab is specifically interested in identifying new IRD disease genes, investigating the mechanism by which mutations in the identified genes lead to blindness, and then using this information to develop rational approaches for new therapies to prevent vision loss.


Dr. Pierce received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He did his residency in Ophthalmology at Harvard’s Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary and fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology at Children's Hospital, Boston where he also took his first faculty position. He was then recruited to the department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. He returned to Harvard in 2011 to establish the Ocular Genomics Institute. He became Director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory and ERG Service in 2014.

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Catherine Bowes Rickman

Catherine Bowes Rickman, PhD

Departments of Ophthalmology and Cell Biology

Duke University Medical School

Catherine Bowes Rickman, PhD, is a tenured Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and of Cell Biology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC.


Dr. Bowes Rickman leads a team of researchers focused on developing and using mouse models to understand the pathobiology of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and on developing and testing therapeutic targets for AMD.


Dr. Bowes Rickman has a long-standing interest in the molecular and cell biology and pathology of the retina. Amongst her seminal discoveries was the identification of the gene responsible for retinal degeneration in the rd mouse. She has applied her expertise in mouse genetics to develop models to study age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Currently, she is using several mouse models developed by her group that faithfully recapitulate many aspects of the human AMD phenotype to provide in vivo means to examine the pathogenic contribution of genetic, inflammatory and environmental factors to AMD onset and progression. Recently, she successfully demonstrated therapeutic rescue from dry AMD in one of these models. The last few years has been dedicated towards better understanding the impact of the complement system on the onset and progression of AMD using novel mouse models.


Dr. Bowes Rickman’s research program has been continually funded by the NIH since 1995 and she has also received support from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) Foundation, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the Macular Degeneration program of the American Health Assistance Foundation, Macula Vision Research Foundation, and The Ruth and Milton Steinbach Fund. Dr. Bowes Rickman has received a RPB Career Development Award, a RPB William and Mary Greve Special Scholars Award and an Edward N. & Della L. Thome Memorial Foundation Award.


Dr. Bowes Rickman has published more than 40 original research and review articles and has edited two books on inherited and environmentally induced retinal degenerations. She currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the Foundation Fighting Blindness (Owings Mills, Maryland), the Beckman Initiative for Macular Research (Irvine, California) and the Macular Degeneration program of the BrightFocus Foundation (Clarksburg, Maryland).


Dr. Bowes Rickman received her undergraduate degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara, specializing in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and Aquatic Biology. She earned a PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles and then did a postdoctoral fellowship at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, California, where she focused on mouse models of retinitis pigmentosa.

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Philip J. Rosenfeld

Philip J. Rosenfeld, MD, PhD

Professor of Ophthalmology

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Dr. Philip Rosenfeld graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Case Western Reserve University in 1979 with a B.S. degree in Chemistry. He then received both his MD and PhD degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1988. Following the completion of a residency in ophthalmology as well as a post-doctoral research fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Rosenfeld completed a vitreoretinal fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. After his fellowship in 1996, he joined the faculty of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.


Dr. Rosenfeld is now Professor of Ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He is a vitreoretinal specialist with a primary clinical research interest in age-related macular degeneration (AMD). He has been the principal investigator and study chairman of numerous AMD clinical trials starting with the verteporfin photodynamic therapy investigations in 1996. Dr. Rosenfeld was lead investigator in the Phase I/II/III Lucentis™ (Genentech) trials, and he pioneered the use of Avastin in wet AMD. He first used systemic, intravenous Avastin for wet AMD in the SANA Trial before pioneering the use of intravitreal Avastin for the treatment of wet AMD and retinal vein occlusions. Dr. Rosenfeld also performed the PrONTO Study, which successfully explored the use of OCT-guided “as-needed” treatment as an alternative to monthly dosing with Lucentis.


In addition, Dr. Rosenfeld has been involved in the development of novel spectral domain and swept source OCT algorithms for characterizing anatomic features of AMD and studying their disease progression. His research team has developed several novel clinical trial anatomic endpoints based on these OCT algorithms, which are now commercially available on the Cirrus SDOCT instrument and are being used in ongoing investigations exploring new therapies for dry and wet AMD. In 2009, Dr. Rosenfeld designed and initiated the first Phase II study exploring complement inhibition for the treatment of dry AMD. The trial, known as the COMPLETE Study, used the FDA-approved drug known as eculizumab (Soliris, Alexion Pharmaceuticals), which was administered intravenously for the treatment of dry AMD. Dr. Rosenfeld is currently participating in additional ongoing clinical trials exploring novel therapies and clinical trial endpoints for both dry AMD and wet AMD.


Dr. Rosenfeld is an active member in several ophthalmologic societies including the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Retinal Specialists, the Retina Society, the Macula Society, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the Pan-American Ophthalmology Association (PAOA), the Society of Heed Fellows, the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, and the Miami Ophthalmological Society (MOS). Dr. Rosenfeld has received the American Academy of Ophthalmology's Senior Achievement and Secretariat Awards, the Florida Society of Ophthalmology Shaler Richardson MD Service to Medicine Award, the Macula Society’s Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, the Heed Award, the Founders’ Award from the American Society of Retinal Specialists, the Golden Medal Moacyr Álvaro from the Federal University São Paulo, the Muse Award from Eye and Ear Foundation of the University Pittsburgh, and the J. Donald Gass Award from the Retina Society. Dr. Rosenfeld has been named yearly to "Best Doctors in America" and Castle Connolly’s “America's Top Doctors".

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José-Alain Sahel

Dr. José-Alain Sahel

Director of Institut de la Vision and the Laboratory of Excellence

Biography

Born July 12, 1955 in Tlemcen (Algeria).
José-Alain Sahel studied medicine at the Medical School of Paris University and ophthalmology at the University of Strasbourg and at Harvard University (Boston-Cambridge, USA). He was appointed Professor of Ophthalmology at the University Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg. Currently, José-Alain Sahel is Professor of Ophthalmology at Pierre and Marie Curie University Medical School, Paris, France and Cumberlege Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Ophthalmology-University College London, UK. He chairs the Departments of Ophthalmology at the Quinze-Vingts National Eye Hospital and at the Rothschild Ophthalmology Foundation.


The primary focus of Sahel’s fundamental and clinical research is the understanding of the mechanisms associated with retinal degeneration, together with the conception, development and evaluation of innovative treatments for retinal diseases, with a special focus on genetic rod-cone dystrophies (e.g. neuroprotection, stem cells, gene therapy, pharmacology, and artificial retina). The group of José-Alain Sahel (with Saddek Mohand-Said and Thierry Léveillard) was the first to hypothesize and demonstrate that rod photoreceptors produce a protein that rescues cone photoreceptors, thereby maintaining light-adapted and high-resolution vision. This molecule, Rod-derived Cone Viability Factor (RdCVF), is now in translation into a possible therapeutic agent to save cones and treat a spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases. Once rods and cones have degenerated, optogenetics -a promising novel therapeutic strategy- provides alternative to restore visual. Sahel‘s group (with Serge Picaud and Botond Roska at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research) demonstrated that different retinal cell types such as "dormant cones" can be converted into “artificial photoreceptors” by targeting the expression of genetically encoded light sensors enabling mice with retinal degeneration to perform visually guided behaviors. Besides research on developmental biology, functional genomics, physiology and therapeutics, Sahel’s laboratory (with Michel Paques, Saddek Mohand-Said and isabelle Audo) conducts research on genotype-phenotype correlations with high resolution in vivo non-invasive high-resolution retinal imaging techniques (optical coherence tomography and adaptive optics) aiming at identifying patients eligible for clinical application of innovative therapies. Together with Mathis Fink (Institut Langevin) he is the principal investigator of a very large ERC-synergy grant aiming at developing novel technologies for morpho-functional imaging of the visual system.


José-Alain Sahel is founder and director of the Institut de la Vision in Paris, a site for translational research on treatments for currently untreatable inherited and age-related ocular diseases that comprises 18 principal investigators and more than 250 staff members, and functions in synergy with the Quinze-Vingts National Eye Hospital. He coordinates the Paris-based Ophthalmology Clinical Investigation Center, overseeing more than 50 clinical trials, some of them within the most advanced areas of biomedical technologies worldwide, such as retinal implants and gene therapy. José Sahel heads the National Reference Center for Retinal Dystrophies and chairs a network of more than 90 European clinical trial centers on retinal diseases. He published over 300 peer-reviewed articles and co-authored more than 20 patents. He was a founder of Fovea pharmaceuticals, which became the ophthalmological division of Sanofi, and is a scientific co-founder of GenSight Biologics and Pixium Vision.


Awards and distinctions

José-Alain Sahel has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) Trustee Award (2005), Emilia Valori Grand Prix of the French Academy of Sciences (2005), The Institut de France’s Foundation NRJ Grand Prix scientifique (2006), Alcon Research Institute Alumni Award for Excellence in Vision Research (2006), The Altran Foundation Innovation Award (2007), Gold Medal of the University Pierre et Marie Curie (2008), Jules Gonin Prize of the of the Retina Research Foundation (2012), CNRS Medal of Innovation (2012), Prix Inter-Optiques (2014), Prix Chaptal of the French Industry (2014), Special Recognition Award Retina International (2014), Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) Llura Liggett Gund Award (2015), Prix Opecst-Inserm (2015), Prix Alfred Monnier (2015).


He is Honorary Member of the Deutsche Ophthalmologische Gesellschaft, Knight of the Legion of Honor, Officer of the National Order of Merit, and Honoris Causa Doctorate of the University of Geneva. José Sahel was elected to the European Academy of Ophthalmology (2006), the Academia Ophthalmologia Internationalis (2007), the Academy of Sciences-Institut de France (2007) and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (2014).

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Hendrik Peter Scholl

Hendrik Peter Scholl, MD, MA

Director, Retinal Degeneration Clinic

Professor of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Hendrik P.N. Scholl, M.D., M.A., is the Dr. Frieda Derdeyn Bambas Professor of Ophthalmology and head of visual neurophysiology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. He specializes in medical and surgical management of retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy and has specific expertise in inherited retinal and macular degenerations. He uses the latest technologies, including electroretinography, microperimetry and high-resolution imaging, for the diagnosis of these disorders.


Dr. Scholl's primary research interest relates to visual loss in retinal degenerations and to therapeutic measures in order to rescue vision. He uses psychophysical and electrophysiological methods to measure visual function and high-resolution topographic and tomographic imaging to investigate retinal structure with the aim of developing more efficient markers for upcoming clinical trials.


Dr. Scholl received his M.D. from the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen, Germany, and did his residency at the Centre for Ophthalmology, University of Tuebingen. He did a clinical research fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK.  He served on the ophthalmology faculty at the University of Bonn for 5 years until he was recruited to the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins in 2010. 

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