The attoworld team would like to congratulate Prof. Botond Roska, director at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB). Together with his colleague Prof. José-Alain Sahel, he has been awarded this year's Wolf Prize for Medicine “for sight-saving and vision restoration to blind people using optogenetics”.

Botond Roska (born in 1969, Hungary) is a world-renowned expert in the structure and function of retinal circuits in health and disease. Roska developed a robust technology for cell-type targeted gene therapy and vision restoration in retinas. His laboratory generated the first single-cell transcriptome-based gene expression atlas for the human retina and choroid and then created human retinal organoids from induced pluripotent stem cells, establishing methods to generate large quantities of functional human retinal cells for optimizing gene therapy approaches ex vivo. In 2008, Roska using gene ferries succeeded in injecting light-sensitive channel proteins from green algae into the retinal cells of blind mice, thus giving the rodents a rudimentary form of sight. He customized a technology to sensitize specific cell types in the eye to near-infrared light using the photoactivatable optogene channelrhodopsin ChrimsonR and demonstrated restoration of light responses in blind mice.

Botond Roska and  José-Alain Sahel met in 2001 while Roska was studying for a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology in Berkeley, US. He had come to Strasbourg, France, to spend a month at Louis Pasteur University, where Sahel was then a laboratory director. This meeting began a long and complementary collaboration trying to reactivate photoreceptor cells in blind human retina and restore their functionality. In a breakthrough study published in Nature Medicine in May 2021, Roska and Sahel reported the first blind patient who partially regained vision.

Botond Roska earned his M.D. degree from the Semmelweis University Medical School. He pursued a Ph.D. in neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley, and furthered his studies in genetics and virology at Harvard University Medical School. In 2005, he established a research group at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel. By 2010, Roska became a Professor at the Medical Faculty of the University of Basel. Currently, he serves as a founding director at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB).

Picture: F. Reinhold/IOB