Jan 9, 2023

Retinal Research Community Loses Beloved Pioneer Sam Jacobson

Beacon Stories

His many contributions included pivotal work that led to LUXTURNA

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The Foundation Fighting Blindness is saddened to report the passing of Sam Jacobson, MD, PhD, a world-renowned pioneer in clinical and lab research for retinal diseases and one of the Foundation’s original Scientific Advisory Board members. He was the recipient of the Foundation’s Board of Directors and National Trustee Awards for his innumerable research achievements and contributions to the field.

Dr. Jacobson was highly respected for his seminal discoveries and breakthroughs, teaching and mentorship, natural history studies, and clinical development of numerous retinal-disease treatments, including gene and RNA therapies for several forms of retinitis pigmentosa, Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), cone-rod dystrophies, and many other retinal conditions.

Dr. Jacobson was beloved by patients and families for his outstanding clinical care and the many hours he took to help them understand their conditions, prognoses, and research underway that might benefit them.

“Sam Jacobson was a hero in the fight against blinding retinal diseases. He gave selflessly to the Foundation, the global retinal research community, and patients and families,” says Jason Menzo, chief executive officer at the Foundation Fighting Blindness. “His decades of unparalleled passion and dedication to research were instrumental in moving our mission forward and advancing treatments into and through clinical trials. His impact and legacy will be forever lasting.”

Among his numerous awards and honors, Dr. Jacobson received the Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award in 2018 for his revolutionary work that led to LUXTURNA, the first gene therapy approved by the FDA for the eye or any inherited condition. Also in 2018, he was awarded the Proctor Medal for his research with colleague Artur Cideciyan, PhD, that showed certain forms of LCA, despite causing severe vision loss, were good candidates for treatments.

Dr. Jacobson most recently served as the William C. Frayer Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Pennsylvania; Director, Center for Hereditary Retinal Degenerations, Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania; Director, Retinal Function Department, Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania

He received his MD from the University of Illinois and PhD from the University of London, did residencies at Mass Eye and Ear and Rush Presbyterian, and held fellowships at Mass Eye and Ear and Moorfields Eye Hospital.