Gertrude D. Pyron Award

The Retina Research Foundation’s Gertrude D. Pyron Award

The Pyron Award was created by the Retina Research foundation of Houston, Texas, to recognize outstanding vision scientists whose work contributes to knowledge about vitreoretinal disease.

Gertrude D. Pyron

The award, which offers a cash prize and research grant, is presented each year at the ASRS Annual Meeting. The recipient is chosen by the ASRS Awards Committee.

The Pyron Award has been endowed by an estate gift from Gertrude D. Pyron of San Antonio, Texas. She was an imminent geologist during her lifetime, and made her bequest to RRF because of her admiration for Dr. Alice McPherson’s leadership in vision science.

Retina Research Foundation was founded in 1969 by Dr. Alice McPherson, a member of the American Society of Retina Specialists, to establish and fund programs for the eradication of vitreoretinal disease. A public charity based in Houston, it has grown with support from a few community leaders to a major foundation, with broad support, funding a grant program, a major awards program, a career develop­ment program, and annual support for several research chairs.

The awards program sponsors lectureships not only at the ASRS Annual Meeting, but also the Award of Merit Lecture of The Retina Society, the Mills & Margaret Cox Award of The Macula Society, the Kayser Award of the Schepens International Society, and the Gonin Lecture of Club Jules Gonin.

Research chairs are endowed at the Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of Wisconsin Medical School. Travel awards and scholars programs are supported at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and the Pan­American Association of Ophthalmology.

The ASRS is proud to be the recipient of the Pyron Award as part of this major awards program. The awards program for the RRF was established in 1978 to provided honoraria and research grants to internationally known retina scientists in recognition of their lifetime achievements.

The Retina Research Foundation has sponsored a Lectureship Research Award at the American Society of Retina Specialists Annual Meeting since 1995. From 1995 through 1998, the lectureship was named in honor of W.H. Helmerich, III. Commencing in 1999, the award series changed to honor Gertrude Pyron.

The 22nd Annual Gertrude D. Pyron Award and Lecture

The Retina Research Foundation’s Gertrude D. Pyron Award is being presented to Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD, director of the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he has served since 2001. Dr. Sieving is internationally known for studies of retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

The Pyron Award was created by the Retina Research Foundation of Houston, Texas, to recognize outstanding vision scientists whose work contributes to knowledge about vitreoretinal disease.

Dr. Sieving will present the 22nd Annual Gertrude D. Pyron Award Lecture, “Considerations of Gene Therapy for Retinal Dystrophies.”

Dr. Sieving founded the Center for Hereditary Retinal and Macular Degenerations and established the first medically CLIA-certified ophthalmic molecular diagnostic laboratory for hereditary retinal degenerative disease in United States, both while he was professor of ophthalmology at the University of Michigan.

As director of the NEI, he oversees a $730 million budget that supports 1800 vision research scientists and clinicians at 245 institutions in the United States and abroad. Dr. Sieving originated the NEI Audacious Goals Initiative, a 15-year effort in regenerative medicine to replace photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells lost from disease. 

Dr. Sieving continues clinical and research engagement as a tenured senior investigator in the NIH Intramural Research Program, and has published more than 260 peer-reviewed papers in ocular genetics and the pathophysiology of retinal neurodegenerative diseases.

He identified a novel mechanism to protect photoreceptors by modulating the retinoid cycle in the eye using 13-cis retinoic acid (isotretinoin) (Proc Natl Acad Sci, 2001), which has led to several therapy efforts for Stargardt macular degeneration. Dr. Sieving conducted the first human clinical trial with ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) to rescue rod and cone photoreceptors from slowly progressive death from RP (Proc Natl Acad Sci, 2006).

Dr. Sieving has worked for many years on X-linked retinoschisis (XLRS). He created a transgenic XLRS mouse model (Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 2004) and demonstrated that XLRS is a synaptic disease with direct involvement of the rod-to-bipolar synapse (J Clin Invest, 2015). He used gene therapy to deliver a normal RS1 gene into eyes of XLRS mice, and this reversed the synaptic pathology and closes the retinal schisis cavities. Dr. Sieving and his team initiated the human gene therapy trial in February 2015 and are well along the way toward looking for a signal of efficacy (ClinicalTrials.gov; #NCT02317887). They were the first ever to initiate an XLRS clinical trial. 

The Retina Research Foundation Honorees

1995    George F. Hilton, MD
1996    Robert C. Watzke, MD
1997    Thomas M. Aaberg, Sr., MD
1998    Stanley Chang, MD
1999    Harry W. Flynn, Jr., MD
2000    Gholam A. Peyman, MD
2001    Yasuo Tano, MD
2002    Michael T. Trese, MD
2003    Lloyd M. Aiello, MD
2004    Morton F. Goldberg, MD
2005    Mark S. Blumenkranz, MD
2006    Brooks W. McCuen, II, MD
2007    Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA
2008    Susan B. Bressler, MD & Neil M. Bressler, MD
2009    C.P. Wilkinson, MD
2010    Julia A. Haller, MD
2011    Jean Bennett, MD, PhD & Albert M. Maguire, MD
2012    Daniel F. Martin, MD
2013    George A. Williams, MD
2014    Andrew P. Schachat, MD
2015    Gary W. Abrams, MD
2016    Donald J. D'Amico, MD
2017    Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD