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Ophthalmologist Miss Samantha de Silva has been named the RSM Wesleyan Trainee of the Year 2014 for her research into gene therapy to restore visual function in end-stage retinitis pigmentosa.

Royal society of medicine prize for gene therapy researcher
Samantha de Silva

Samantha's research aims to develop gene therapy for patients with end-stage retinal degenerations. These conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa affect about 1 in 3000 people with a significant proportion having extensive visual loss and blindness.

As a Wellcome Trust funded research fellow in the groups of Professor Robert MacLaren and Professor Mark Hankins, Samantha is investigating the role of optogenetics in gene therapy. This aims to make residual cells in the degenerate retina light-sensitive which could potentially restore visual function. 

She competed for the prestigious award among four other finalists representing the top prize winners at the Royal Society of Medicine in the last year.

 

I feel very honoured to be selected. It was an enjoyable experience to get feedback on my research from judges so eminent in their field.
- Samantha De Silva

 

Mr Babulal Sethia, current RSM President and chairman of the judges, said: 'The quality of the presentations was outstanding and we were impressed by the detail, basic science and the quality of the finalists’ discussions following their presentations. We look forward with excitement to seeing their work progress in future years.'

See highlights of the RSM Wesleyan Trainee of the Year award evening on YouTube