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Biography

Robert MacLaren is Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Oxford Eye Hospital, Honorary Professor of Ophthalmology at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Honorary Consultant Vitreoretinal Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital and an NIHR Senior Investigator. He is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Fellow and former King James IV Professor of Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Bodley Fellow of Merton College Oxford and Civilian Consultant Advisor to the Royal Navy. He has been a recipient of the ARVO Camras Award for Translational Research, the RP Fighting Blindness Scientist of the Year Award, the American Academy of Ophthalmology Achievement Award, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists Keeler Medal and the Macular Society Clinical Service of the Year award.

Together with the University of Oxford in 2014, he co-founded Nightstar Therapeutics in order to expand his retinal gene therapy programme towards worldwide approval for patients with retinal diseases. After listing on NASDAQ in 2017, Nightstar Therapeutics was acquired by Biogen in 2019, making it one of the three most successful British biotechnology company buyouts of all time. To date, he has helped raise over a billion dollars of funding for retinal gene therapy.

Robert MacLaren

MB ChB DPhil FRCOphth FRCS FACS FMedSci


Professor of Ophthalmology

  • Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Oxford
  • Consultant Vitreoretinal Surgeon
  • Fellow of Merton College

Research Summary

Our clinical and laboratory research is dedicated to finding new treatments for blindness, particularly in patients with incurable retinal diseases, using stem cell-based approaches, gene therapy or electronic retinas. We are also developing new techniques for cataract and retinal surgery. Our recent research achievements include:

  • 2019: First gene therapy treatment for age-related macular degeneration to target the underlying retinal disease mechanism, in collaboration with Gyroscope Therapeutics (BBC News).
  • 2018: Successful completion of the world's first gene therapy trial for choroideremia, meeting the primary endpoint of showing beneficial effects on vision (Nature Medicine, 2018).
  • 2017: First in man gene therapy clinical trial for X-linked retinitis pigmentosa in collaboration with Nightstar Therapeutics (BBC World Service).
  • 2016: First in man use of a robot to operate inside the eye in collaboration with Preceyes BV (Nature Biomedical Engineering, 2018).
  • 2016: Long term efficacy of retinal gene therapy in choroideremia, leading to sustained improvement in visual acuity in patients over several years (New Eng J Med, 2016)
  • 2015: Demonstration of efficacy of a new molecular treatment to prevent vitamin A dimerization in a mouse model of Stargardt disease (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2015)
  • 2013: Reconstruction of the outer retina using a cell therapy approach in mice that are completely blind from end-stage retinal degeneration (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2013)
  • 2012: First electronic retinal implant surgery in the UK as part of a multicentre clinical trial with Retina Implant AG (Vision Res, 2015)
  • 2011: Initial first in man clinical trial of gene therapy to treat choroideremia showing safety and early signs of efficacy (Lancet, 2014)
  • 2010: Development of novel cataract surgery techniques for patients with complex retinal diseases (J Cataract Refract Surg, 2011, J Cataract Refract Surg, 2014)

Key publications