Dr Botond Roska received the 2019 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine because of his important discoveries enabling the restoration of vision in retinal disorders. Many regard the award as the anteroom of the Nobel-prize.
Dr Roska is currently working in Basel, Switzerland, but received his medical degree from Semmelweis University, Budapest. According to blikk.hu, he is the first Hungarian to get Louis-Jeantet Prize ever.
To be specific, he and his research group mapped how different cell types in the visual system extract visual information from the environment. Based on molecular mechanisms, they have developed novel gene therapies allowing the restoration of the vision for those who lost it because of genetic disorders. The Swiss research group developed special visual sensors that can be placed in the blind retina. These can interact with strategically important retinal cell types. Thus, they are able to
restore the delivery of visual information to the central nervous system of the patient.
Roska was born in in 1969 and obtained his medical degree at Semmelweis University, Budapest. Later he studied in the United States and got his PhD in neurobiology from the University of California, Berkeley. He also studied genetics and virology at Harvard University. He is currently working as co-director of the Institute of Ophthalmology Basel (IOB) where his research group operates. According to semmelweis.hu, part of his research is pursued at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI).
Established in 1986, the Louis-Jeantet Prizes – which are sometimes referred to as
the “anteroom” of the Nobel Prize –
are awarded to two or three medical researchers a year. Last year, he was also recognized with the prestigious W. Alden Spencer Award from Columbia University because of understanding the process of vision and the Bressler Prize because of his vision restoration therapy.
Qubit.hu managed to do an interview with him after receiving the Louis-Jeantet Prize. Roska said that blindness is currently the most feared disease in the first world and because more and more people suffer from myopia which can cause blindness in the long run, this fear has some basis. He added that despite general belief, researchers still do not know enough about the human visual system. According to Roska, their most difficult problem was to repair those cells that need reparation without harming the healthy ones.
The clinical tests have already started in London and France, and approximately a dozen visually impaired people already received their vaccination. Roska believes that
each type of blindness can be cured
but the quality of the restored vision is different from the healthy one. This is because the brain has to learn how to process the information coming through the visual system again.
Here is a short video in which he speaks about the obstacles regarding medical scientific research:
Source: blikk.hu, qubit.hu, semmelweis.hu