UF Health eminent scholar recognized by Florida Inventors Hall of Fame
Press release from UF Health
BY MATT WALKER
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida College of Medicine professor emeritus who developed the first gene therapy drug to prevent blindness is among the 2023 inductees to the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.
UF Health’s William Hauswirth, Ph.D., a professor in ophthalmology, is being inducted for groundbreaking advancements in gene therapy, including the first gene therapy drug, Luxturna®, to treat both adults and children with inherited retinal disease, and his work restoring vision to the functionally blind.
The gene therapy drug was approved by the FDA in 2017 and treats Leber congenital amaurosis type 2, or LCA 2, which is caused by a genetic defect. Hauswirth’s treatment technique uses a harmless virus to deliver a functional copy of a crucial, sight-saving gene to the retina.
“I was in the right place at the right time, with the right background, to develop successful gene therapies for different genetic forms of human blindness,” Hauswirth said.
Hauswirth, who held the Maida and Morris Rybaczki Eminent Scholar Chair in Ophthalmic Sciences at UF, began his career in 1976 in the biochemistry department at the Johns Hopkins University before joining the UF College of Medicine ophthalmology faculty in 1985. Hauswirth has a long-term research focus on using harmless viruses for the delivery and testing of potentially therapeutic genes for many forms of inherited retinal disease in small and large animal models.
“Bill Hauswirth was not only a leader — he was the leader in the development of gene therapy for blinding diseases,” said Alfred Lewin, Ph.D., who was the Shaler-Richardson Professor of Ophthalmic Sciences and is a professor emeritus of molecular genetics and microbiology at UF. “His discoveries have led to many other gene therapies for ocular diseases, ranging from age-related macular degeneration to glaucoma, that now are being tested in patients.”
Lewin said Hauswirth’s generosity in sharing his expertise and research materials with other researchers around the world launched or accelerated the careers of many other scientists and physicians. It also means his contributions to long-sought cures for blindness will continue.
Hauswirth has presented at the Vatican upon the invitation of Pope Francis, received the António Champalimaud Vision Award — one of the highest honors in ophthalmology, was one of two people to receive the 2020 Greenberg End Blindness Award and received UF’s 2021 Innovator of the Year Award. He has published more than 400 research papers, which have been cited nearly 40,000 times. He holds more than 20 issued patents, with more in the works.
The 2023 inductees are the ninth class to be inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. Since its founding in 2013, the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame has inducted 68 inventors, who collectively hold nearly 5,100 U.S. patents.
This year’s inventors will be formally inducted in October at a ceremony and gala in Tampa.
Congratulations Dr Hauswirth. Your research has and will continue to benefit many people worldwide.
Excellent work Dr Hauswirth, and thanks from the human race!
I’m interested to know what “harmless virus” was isolated to enable this treatment. Here is the package insert for Luxterna – https://www.drugs.com/pro/luxturna.html