Knight Campus talk to focus on the cornea and vision science

Bala Ambati, an ophthalmologist and research professor in the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, has seen a lot over the course of his 25-year career.

A leading eye surgeon, vision science pioneer and medical missionary, he has helped repair or restore vision to countless patients around the world, and researchers in his lab in the Knight Campus continue to develop treatments to prevent or reverse blindness, provide clearer vision and reduce the need for corneal transplants.

Ambati will focus on the cornea, the window to the eye, and provide an overview of the history of vision science, as the featured speaker at Science Knight Out, a community science talk sponsored by the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.

RSVP online to the virtual event, slated for 4 p.m. Thursday, April 14. 

Ambati’s talk, “Eye on the Cutting Edge: Healing the Window on the World,” will highlight research from his lab, including a new gene therapy that could eventually provide an alternative treatment for Fuchs’ endothelial corneal dystrophy, a genetic eye disease affecting roughly one in 2,000 people globally. Currently, the only treatment is corneal transplant, a major surgery with associated risks and potential complications.

An ophthalmologist at Pacific Clear Vision Institute in Eugene, Ambati will also explore some of the breakthroughs in vision science over the past 20 years. In addition to performing thousands of cataract surgeries, LASIK and other vision correction procedures, he has also served as a volunteer eye surgeon in Ghana, Zambia, India, Panama, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

“I love having the ability to take care of my patients and to help them see,” Ambati said. “I also love the ability to work with a fantastic group of people here at the Knight Campus and in my lab to come up with the next generation of cures and treatments to help patients around the world for years to come.”

A visionary researcher and highly regarded clinician with an entrepreneurial drive, Ambati co-founded iVeena, a startup focused on developing an eyedrop for corneal strengthening and an implant for drop-free cataract surgery. Prior to joining the Knight Campus in July 2020, he completed his residency at Harvard University and a fellowship at Duke University.

He has been in practice 17 years as a cataract, cornea and refractive surgeon. He was director of cornea at Medical College of Georgia for five years and most recently was professor and director of cornea research at the University of Utah. Having graduated at 17 from Mount Sinai School of Medicine as the world’s youngest doctor, he was cited in 2015 as the No. 1 eye surgeon in a top 40 under 40 global competition and made the Top 100 Power List of Ophthalmology by The Ophthalmologist magazine.

Ambati has been recognized for his teaching excellence with a University of Utah Resident Research Mentor Award and the Gold Humanism Award. He served as an instructor at the Harvard Cataract Course.

Ambati’s talk will mark the sixth installment of Science Knight Out lecture series, which dates to 2017.

Past events were headlined by Leslie Leve, associate director of the UO’s Prevention Science Institute; Robert E. Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director of the Knight Campus; Patrick Phillips, UO provost and senior vice president; Laura Lee McIntyre, director of the Prevention Science Institute and professor in the College of Education; and David McCormick, director of the Institute of Neuroscience.

Recordings of all past lectures are available on the Science Knight Out web page.