Fight for Sight awards three prestigious PhD Studentships across the UK

12 June 23

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Press Office

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We have awarded three PhD Studentships in Oxford, Manchester and Northern Ireland. The highly prestigious awards will provide funding of £110,000 over three years, enabling the successful researchers to recruit a student who will carry out a high-quality research project into sight loss.

Fight for Sight has awarded three PhD Studentships as part of our ongoing commitment to developing early career researchers and advancing our knowledge of sight loss conditions. 

We will provide funding of £110,000 over three years to enable the successful researchers to recruit a student who will conduct a high-quality research project into sight loss. 

Advancing our understanding of sight loss conditions 

Two of the newly-funded projects are investigating a group of eye diseases that include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which most commonly affects older people – as well as rare genetic conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which often begin in childhood. In people with retinal degeneration, the light-sensing cells (photoreceptors) in the retina stop working and eventually die – causing progressive sight loss.

A third project aims to improve understanding of the underlying biology of glaucoma – which is the leading cause of irreversible blindness, affecting around 80 million people worldwide.

As well as training the next generation of eye researchers, these awards could ultimately lead to the development of novel treatments that can help prevent or reverse sight loss in patients, improving their quality of life.

Funding innovative sight loss research 

The funding we've provided will go towards cutting-edge research, including projects that explore emerging fields in sight loss research. 

With generous support from the Laurence Misener Charitable Trust in a project supervised by Dr Nina Milosavljevic of the University of Manchester, a PhD student will explore the long-term consequences of introducing a photopigment into retinal cells.

Previously a Fight for Sight Early Career Fellow, Dr Milosavljevic, is working in the field of optogenetics, which could help to reverse sight loss in patients with advanced retinal degeneration. This novel technology uses a harmless virus to deliver a gene containing the instructions for a light-sensing protein (called a photopigment) into surviving cells in the retina, restoring their ability to detect light. She will use this knowledge to adapt the approach to help make it safer and more effective at restoring vision in the future.

Under the supervision of Dr Jasmina Kapetanovic of the University of Oxford, a PhD student will carry out a project to investigate the potential of using an alternative strategy for optogenetics that involves using cutting-edge gene-editing tools to switch on the patient’s own photopigment genes in retinal cells. 

In a third project, Professor Colin Willoughby of Ulster University will oversee a PhD student who will investigate the role of a hormone called relaxin in the development of glaucoma – and explore its potential as a treatment for certain forms of the condition. 

Building capacity for sight loss research

Dr Madina Kara, Director of Research and Innovation at Fight for Sight, said: “Building capacity in the field of vision research is essential for helping us to achieve our long-term goals to prevent and stop sight loss. That’s why we’re highly committed to supporting the next generation of eye researchers. 

These new awards will enable three new PhD students to embark on their careers in sight loss research, joining a community of Fight for Sight students at universities and institutions across the UK. 

We hope their future discoveries will ultimately lead to innovative solutions that can help to improve the lives of people affected by sight loss.” 

If you’re a potential PhD supervisor, applications are currently open for PhD Studentships that will start in 2024.