A London-based billionaire has pledged $2 million to Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston to fund innovation in research to cure corneal blindness, including the development of promising biotechnology solutions.
Tej Kohli made a fortune during the dotcom boom selling e-commerce payments software. The recent gift announcement reflects Kohli’s belief in the promise of new technologies to build a better world as he seeks to find a solution to eliminating avoidable corneal blindness that is not dependent on transplantation.
Kohli has already made substantial progress in his global mission to eradicate avoidable corneal blindness by 2030. The philanthropic Tej Kohli Cornea Institute in Hyderabad is an eminent institution for corneal research and expertise. Between 2016 and 2018, the institute saw 167,321 outpatient visits, collected 26,269 donor corneas, utilized 15,784 cornea and completed 31,511 surgical procedures.
Visual Impairment: A Global Problem
285 million people in the world have a visual impairment and 39 million people are blind, according to the World Health Organization. Blindness is heavily impacted by poverty, with up to 14 of the 39 million living in India. Yet a good proportion of blindness, including 75% of corneal disease, is curable. 12.7 million of the world’s blind are waiting for corneal transplants, including six million in India, and only one in seventy of those on waiting lists receive a corneal transplant each year. Solving the problem of corneal blindness will require an affordable non-surgical solution.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear: The Clinical Research Site
Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE) is a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School (HMS) and its Department of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest vision research and clinical enterprise. Between 2016 and 2018, MEE ophthalmologists conducted 521,805 patient visits and performed 101,941 ophthalmic surgeries and procedures. A long-time leader in research and clinical care for retinal disease, MEE performed the first FDA-approved gene therapy for an inherited disease in March 2018. Its clinician scientists are currently conducting more than 110 clinical studies and trials in order to investigate new therapies across a broad array of vision disease and disorders.
The Tej Kohli Cornea Program at MEE will accelerate innovative and collaborative research to achieve unprecedented breakthroughs in corneal disease. The program will pursue pathways to cure corneal blindness through prevention and treatment, including cutting-edge molecular technology for rapid diagnosis and early detection of corneal infection and GelCORE, an adhesive biomaterial for replacing corneal tissue. The clinician/scientists who will lead this work are:
- Reza Dana, MD, PhD, MSc, an internationally recognized expert in corneal disorders and ocular inflammation. Dr. Dana holds the Claes H. Dohlman Professorship in Ophthalmology at HMS and is director of the cornea service at the MEE.
- Michael Gilmore, PhD, is the founder and principal investigator of the Harvard-wide Program on Antibiotic Resistance. Dr. Gilmore holds the Sir William Osler Professorship in Ophthalmology at HMS.
- James Chodosh, MD, MPH, holds the David G. Cogan Professorship in Ophthalmology in the field of Cornea and External Disease and is an associate director of the Infectious Disease Institute in the Department of Ophthalmology at HMS.
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