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Partnership between Pitt, French researchers to focus first on curing blindness

| Thursday, July 13, 2017, 2:51 p.m.
James Knox | For the Tribune-Review
UPMC has hired Dr. Jose-Alain Sahel, a world-renowned vision specialist, to continue his work in Pittsburgh trying to cure blindness and vision impairments.

University of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine is partnering with three French institutions on medical research, starting with efforts to cure blindness and vision impairment.

Pitt said Thursday in a news release that it is partnering with the University Pierre et Marie Curie of the Sorbonne Universités in Paris; the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research; and the French National Center for Scientific Research, the largest fundamental science agency in Europe.

Dr. Jose-Alain Sahel, a top eye researcher Pitt hired from France last year to lead its eye programs, spurred the partnership, according to the release.

“The solution for curing blindness is not going to come from one person or one group, it's going to be a large array,” Sahel said in an interview Thursday.

He said the institutions have already begun working together. The partnership will cut down on the paperwork necessary to send scientists and doctors back and forth, he said, and will make more clinical trials available in Pittsburgh.

He said he expects to launch a trial of the most advanced artificial retina yet developed. The device uses cameras and processors to gather and translate light for the brain, creating a sort of vision for people with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

In addition to research, the partnership will include exchanging academic personnel, holding academic conferences and exchanging scientific and educational materials, according to the release.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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