Vision scientist Dr. David Gamm to lead UW Eye Research Institute

June 29, 2012 By Susan Lampert Smith

Dr. David Gamm, whose lab is internationally known for deriving human retina cells and tissue-like structures from human stem cells, has been selected as director of the University of Wisconsin Eye Research Institute (ERI).

When Gamm takes over July 1 from founding director Dr. Daniel Albert, the institute will be officially renamed the McPherson Eye Research Institute, in honor of Dr. Alice McPherson, an ophthalmology pioneer and UW alumna.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Gamm has agreed to take on this vitally important leadership role,” says Robert N. Golden, dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “He has an outstanding international reputation as a physician-scientist, and has demonstrated a remarkable ability to create synergies by bringing together people from differing disciplines and perspectives.”

Gamm received his bachelor’s, medical and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan, and completed his residency in ophthalmology and fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. In addition to being a pediatric ophthalmologist at UW Health, he is an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and an investigator in the Waisman Center Stem Cell Research Program and the ERI.

Using a variety of stem cells, including patient-specific induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, Gamm’s lab investigates events involved in normal retinal development and retinal degeneration, with the goal of treating eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. His lab has been able to create retinal tissue from iPS cells produced from human skin and blood cells. His honors include election to Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor society; selection as the Kathryn and Latimer Murfee Chair by the Retina Research Foundation; and the Foundation Fighting Blindness Board of Directors Award for Retinal Research.

“I would also like to thank Daniel Albert for his truly outstanding leadership and service as the founding director of the ERI,’’ Golden says. “His leadership team has created a strong foundation for building a bright future for this wonderful, multidisciplinary institute.”

Dr. Albert praised Gamm’s selection as his successor.

“David Gamm is an outstanding physician scientist who has made important contributions to ocular stem cell research,’’ Albert says. “He is an excellent mentor and teacher and I am certain he will be an outstanding director.”

So did Dr. Paul Kaufman, chairman of ophthalmology and visual sciences.

“David Gamm is that rarest of individuals in our field, a practicing physician and basic scientist who has already done transformative translational research and demonstrated outstanding leadership and team-building skills, all at an early career stage,” Kaufmann says. “He will be an outstanding director of ERI and a worthy successor to Dr. Daniel Albert, ERI’s distinguished founding director.”

The ERI is a multidisciplinary community of more than 100 UW scholars working to gain critical knowledge about the science and art of vision and apply it to preventing blindness. Its members range from basic researchers and visual artists to neuroscientists and computer engineers.

The McPherson Eye Research Institute will have a new home in the second tower of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research, now under construction adjacent to the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.