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Penn Vet’s Gustavo D. Aguirre Formally Recognized as AAAS Fellow for Distinguished Contributions to the Field of Inherited Blindness

By: Martin Hackett Date: Mar 9, 2018

Dr. Gustavo Aguirre at the 2018 Fellows Forum receiving his award from Dr. Susan Hockfield, AAAS President. Photo courtesy of AAAS.

Dr. Gustavo Aguirre receives his award from Dr. Susan Hockfield, AAAS President, at the 2018 Fellows Forum.
Photo courtesy of AAAS.

[March 9, 2018; Philadelphia, PA] – Penn Vet’s Gustavo D. Aguirre, Professor of Medical Genetics and Ophthalmology, was formally recognized as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on February 17, 2018 at the Fellows Forum at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas. The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. The Fellow distinction recognizes researchers who have made extraordinary contributions to advance science across the globe for the benefit of all people. Dating back to 1874, the tradition of AAAS Fellows comprises an illustrious group of scientists including inventor Thomas Edison and anthropologist Margaret Mead.

Formally announced on November 24, 2017 and as part of the Section on Medical Sciences, Aguirre was selected for “distinguished contributions to the field of inherited blindness, particularly for the identification of blindness-causing genes and development of gene therapy to treat blindness.” His research has investigated the genetic basis of a variety of inherited vision disorders, including Leber’s congenital amaurosis, Best disease, achromatopsia and retinitis pigmentosa. His work on novel gene therapy approaches to treatment, which deliver to the eye a functional copy of a gene that is otherwise lacking, has restored vision in animal models of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa and Leber’s congential amaurosis. The Leber congenital amaurosis therapy is now commercialized after successful completion of human clinical trials.

Dr. Gustavo Aguirre“The goal of my work is to identify the genetic causes of blindness and to hopefully cure blindness through gene therapies and other approaches,” said Aguirre. “It is a tremendous honor to be elected as a Fellow. I want to thank the AAAS Council, as well as my peers and colleagues, who share my passion and commitment to improving the lives of people with vision impairments.”

Aguirre is the 2017 recipient of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s Proctor Medal, for his unique canine models of retinal degeneration which provides basic information about their counterpart human diseases. He is also the recipient of the 2016 Louis Braille Award for innovative research and treatment of inherited blinding diseases.

Aguirre, who earned his VMD and PhD from Penn, is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, a Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.