Hearst Fellowship Advances Care

Dr. Olubayo Kolawole may be the first ophthalmologist in Nigeria to specialize in inherited retinal degenerations (IRD).

“With expertise gained at UCSF, I can help Nigerians born with these historically untreatable blinding conditions,” he says.

When Dr. Kolawole discovered the work of Jacque Duncan, MD, a recognized leader in IRD, he applied for and won a prestigious George and Rosalie Hearst Fellowship. “I am honored to have Dr. Duncan and Anthony Moore, MD, FMEDSci, as mentors,” he says. Dr. Kolawole is learning to better diagnose the many types of IRDs and to use advanced technologies to assess patients.

 

Gene Therapies Bring Hope

“Iis an auspicious time for ophthalmologists worldwide to develop expertise in IRD, because breakthroughs in gene therapies are bringing new hope to these patients,” says Dr. Duncan.

The first successful gene therapy for an IRD gained US approval in 2017. It treats patients with mutations in the RPE65 gene, which causes severe vision loss in infants and young children. Ongoing clinical trials, including five led by Drs. Duncan and Moore, make it likely that more IRD gene therapies will be available in the near future. Upon his return to Osogbo, Nigeria, Dr. Kolawole will pass his knowledge on to aspiring and veteran ophthalmologists. He plans to initiate research to pinpoint the genetic defects underlying patients’ IRD conditions, paving the way for gene therapies in his country.