from left to right: the Retinitis Pigmentosa award winner Dr. rer. nat. (Economics) Elvir Becirovic, Franz Badura, MD Research award winner D. Felix Grassmann and DOG President Prof. Dir, Horst Helbig
This year's MD Research Prize of PRO RETINA Deutschland e. V. was awarded at the Congress of the German Ophthalmological Society (DOG) in Berlin to Dr. Felix Grassmann of the Institute for Human Genetics at the University of Regensburg for his four linked papers on the topic "Genetic and Opigenetic Factors for Age-related Macula Degeneration".
In the first paper Grassmann and colleagues showed for the first time that the multiallelic copy numbers of the complement component 4A gene are linked to the risk of suffering from AMD.
This provides further independent proof that a faulty regulation of the complement system (a part of the immune system) plays an important role in AMD. lt is also one of the first papers an AMD to describe a new type of genetic variability - the multi-allelic copy number variation(2) as an important cause of faulty regulation of complement proteins.
The second paper resulted from the cooperation with 27 international working groups (International AMD Genomics Consortium IAMDGC). In a study of over 30.000 persons tested, 16 previously unknown gene regions associated with AMD were identified, which make up roughly half of the genetic risk of AMD.
In the third paper Grassmann and others (2015) described a connection between AMD and variations in the so-called DAPL1-gene. The discovery that in this case this only influences the AMD risk for women and not for men is the first report of a gender-specific genetic association for AMD and could be a starting point to examine the increased risk of AMD for women in more detail.
In the fourth paper Grassmann and others (2014) could show for the first time that there is a connection between the transformation of the genetic information of small RNA-molecules in plasma (so-called circulating microRNAs) into neovascular (wet) AMD.
At the same time they could demonstrate that these circulating micor RNAs play a part in the regulation of neovascularisation and thus could potentially represent a therapeutic target molecule.
With these four outstanding papers Dr. Felix Grassmann has furnished a very important contribution to the understanding of genetic and epigenetic factors for AMD, described new genetic changes associated with AMD and demonstrated the first gender-specific association of epigenetic regulators for AMD.
Dr. Felix Grassmann studied biology in Regensburg and in 2015 obtained his doctorate at the Institute of Human Genetics(1) under Prof. Bernhard Weber. Since then he has been working as a post-doctoral assistant at this Institute. Due to his outstanding achievements at an early stage of his career, he is considered one of the most promising scientific newcomers in the field of ophthalmological genetics.
PRO RETINA Deutschland e. V. and the editorial staff of the Newsletter wish Dr. Felix Grassmann every success for his future scientic work at the Institute for Human Genetics (1) and congratulate him heartily an this honour (the MD Research Award), which is endowed with an amount of 2.000 euros in cash and the financing for a stay at a congress abroad (to the value of a further 1.500 euros).