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The Research

What We Do

Currently, there is no cure for Usher Syndrome. While cochlear implants have greatly ameliorated the most major impacts of deafness for those that receive them as babies, there is no cure for blindness. Those that receive early identification are supported through educational programs so they can learn to adapt and manage their disease. In a world where we are on the precipice of major technological advances in all phases of medicine, that simply isn’t good enough. Targeted research is needed to be able to find a cure. Currently, Usher 1F Collaborative is funding research at five university laboratories working toward this goal, with two additional labs partnering with us.


University of Oregon Institute of Neuroscience

Zebra Fish lab facility

Images from inside the zebrafish lab facility on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016 on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. Photo Credit: Courtesy of University of Oregon

Monte Westerfield, Ph.D., is at the Institute of Neuroscience and Department of Biology at the University of Oregon. His research is focused on Usher Syndrome with particular expertise in creating zebrafish models of Usher Syndrome mutations. Usher 1F Collaborative has funded the creation of a zebrafish model of the Usher Syndrome Type 1F R245X mutation that is carried by ~2% of those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Dr. Westerfield and his team, including Jennifer Phillips, Ph.D., are now beginning testing of drugs on our zebrafish that have the potential to halt or slow the progression of vision loss.

For more on Dr. Westerfield’s work, click here and here.

Click here to view a presentation explaining and outlining the progress of the work of Dr. Monte Westerfield and his lab associates that Jennifer Phillips, Ph.D., presented at the Usher Syndrome Family Conference in Seattle on July 9, 2016.

Click here to watch an Usher Syndrome Coalition USH Talk with University of Oregon Usher 1F researcher Jennifer Phillips, Ph.D., on gene therapy for Usher Syndrome.

PHOTO CREDIT: (Photo at top of the page) Courtesy of University of Oregon


The University of Maryland

Dr. Ahmed working with an Usher 1F mouse

Zubair Ahmed, Ph.D., at the University of Maryland, has developed a mouse model of the most prevalent Usher 1F mutation that he is now using to test potential gene therapies and, in collaboration with Dr. Westerfield, potential drug therapies. He is also working to develop a mini gene for gene replacment for Usher 1F.

For more on Dr. Ahmed’s work, click here.


University of Iowa, Institute for Vision Research

Human donor retina used to facilitate development of large capacity vectors for Usher Syndrome gene therapy

Edwin Stone, M.D., Ph.D., who is working to develop a cure for Usher 1F along with other types of retinitis pigmentosa at his lab at the University of Iowa, is working to halt further retinal degeneration from Usher 1F through gene replacement and to repair damage that has already occurred through replacement of damaged retinal photoreceptor cells with new cells made from the patient’s own skin cells, with a goal of a clinical trial once safety and efficacy are determined.

For more on Dr. Stone’s work, click here and here.


The University of Western Australia

Dr Livia Carvalho (left) and Dr Paula Fuller-Carter (right) in the lab at the Lions Eye Institute, Perth, Australia.

Livia Carvalho, Ph.D., at the University of Western Australia, is collaborating with Dr. Ahmed to develop gene replacement therapy for Usher 1F. She has developed a dual vector gene replacement therapy, which Dr. Ahmed is testing for efficacy on our mouse.

For more on Dr. Carvalho’s work, click here.


The University of Pittsurgh

Dr. Leah Byrne

Leah Byrne, Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh is developing a split gene dual vector system for gene replacement. Her unique approach increases the efficiency of viral vector co-infection, increasing efficacy of large gene expression. Once complete, Dr. Ahmed will test her vectors for efficacy on our mouse.

For more on Dr. Byrne's work, click here and here.


Harvard Medical School

Dr. David Corey

David Corey, Ph.D., is the Bertarelli Professor of Translational Medical Science, Blavatnik Institute of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School. After years of studying protocadherin 15, the Usher 1F gene, in relation to hearing, he decided to pursue research on treating the vision loss of Usher 1F after attending Usher 1F Collaborative's May 2017 researchers symposium. We are very fortunate that he has obtained a substantial amount of funding from outside sources, most notably from the Bertarelli Foundation. Dr. Corey is working on three approaches to gene therapy, mini genes, split genes, and gene editing. He has begun testing of mini genes for efficacy on our zebrafish.

For more about Dr. Corey's work, click here


Centre for Eye Research Australia

Dr. Alex Hewitt

Associate Professor Alex Hewitt is a Principal Research Fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the School of Medicine at the University of Tasmania, as well as Principal Investigator at the Centre for Eye Research Australia. He is also a practicing ophthalmologist. Working with our partner family in Melbourne, Australia, Dr. Hewitt obtained a grant from the Australian government for his Usher 1F research and, using this money, is working on gene editing to effectively treat the vision loss of Usher 1F.

For more about Dr. Hewitt's work, click here and here.

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