Gaining critical knowledge about the science and art
of vision and applying it to the prevention of blindness

Notice: McPherson ERI and UW Dept of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences now recruiting a faculty AMD researcher

The McPherson ERI and the UW-Madison Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (DOVS) are in the process of hiring a faculty member with a research program in AMD! The position lists PhD, MD, or MD/PhD as qualifications and at least 50% of their effort must be related to AMD research. The tenure home would be in DOVS. The link to the job posting can be found here.

To all vision researchers, please inform your colleagues who might be qualified and interested of this opportunity!

Announcing our Spring 2024 Walsh Travel Award Winners!

The McPherson Eye Research Institute is pleased to announce our Spring 2024 Walsh Research Travel Award recipients! Made possible by the David G. Walsh endowment, these travel awards provide support for MERI trainees to attend and present vision-related research at a professional conference or symposium. This semester, the MERI Research and Leadership Committees have selected the following two trainees to receive this $1500 award:

David Barnett, Postdoctoral Researcher
(Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, UW-Madison; Freya Mowat, mentor)

David will attend the ARVO 2024 annual meeting in Seattle, WA in May of 2024. David’s presentation will be entitled “Pgc1a haploinsufficiency causes functional retinal deficits in aged mice.”

Carter Sifferman, Graduate Student
(Computer Sciences, UW-Madison
Michael Gleicher & Mohit Gupta, mentor)

Carter will attend The 2024 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Yokohama, Japan in May 2024. Carter’s presentation will be entitled “Unlocking the Performance of Proximity Sensors by Utilizing Transient Histograms.”

Congratulations to MERI member Shawn Green!

Prof. Shawn Green (Dept of Psychology) is one of 24 faculty winners of the 2024-25 Vilas Associates competition! The competition recognizes “new and ongoing research of the highest quality and significance” being undertaken by faculty within 20 years of their tenure date.

Join Us for Cycle for Sight 2024!

Andrea Mason's lab, walking at Cycle for Sight 2023

Cycle for Sight 2024 kicks off at the Princeton Club on Saturday, March 16th.  The Princeton Club event is full, but you can still register, on your own or with a team, to walk or bike through April as part of Cycle for Sight!  And you can always donate to support the event and support vision research at UW-Madison.

Spotting Cognitive Impairment Early

New research from McPherson ERI member Natascha Merten (Assistant Professor, Department of Population Health Sciences, SMPH) indicates that testing senses and motor skills in midlife may help predict cognitive impairment.


Congratulations to the winners of our 2023 Walsh Graduate Student Support Initiative Award!



It is our pleasure to announce the recipients of our 2023 David G. Walsh Graduate Student Support Initiative (GSSI) Award! Made possible by the David G. Walsh Research Fellowship Endowment Fund, GSSI provides McPherson ERI members 1-year grants of $12,000 to support the work of a graduate student. This year’s award recipients are Professor Gillian McLellan (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences; Surgical Sciences) and Professor Ari Rosenberg (Neuroscience). Prof. McLellan’s GSSI award will support graduate student Virginia Mathu’s work on her thesis project Disease Mechanisms at the Intersection of Glaucoma and Alzheimer’s Disease, while Prof. Rosenberg’s GSSI award will support graduate student Zikang ‘John’ Zhu’s work on his thesis project Causal contributions of parieto-occipital cortex to 3D visual perception.

Congratulations to the winners of our 2023 Distinguished Paper Award!



It is our pleasure to announce the recipients of our 2023 Distinguished Paper Award. This year, the McPherson ERI honored 5 trainees for their outstanding, published vision research.

This year’s winners will be recognized during a short ceremony at our upcoming 2024 MERI-at-a-Glance event (Friday, February 23rd). Further information on them and their papers can be found here.

Dr. Freya Mowat’s research featured in UW News


Freya Mowat

Ever wonder what kind of TV shows your dog might choose if they could work the remote control? If so, check out this UW-Madison News article on McPherson ERI Member Freya Mowat’s research on canine vision. Prof. Mowat’s study, which began 2 years ago, focuses on uncovering the factors influencing dogs’ interest in interacting with video content. Ultimately, the study’s goal is to support development of more sensitive ways to assess canine vision.

UW News features new research by MERI member Anjon Audhya and his team


Sites (red) in a mammalian cell where COPII facilitates the packaging of various proteins.
Anjon Audhya


Coat Protein Complex II (COPII) is an enormously important protein that is responsible for transporting approximately one third of all proteins that function in mammalian cells. In a recently published paper in Nature Communication, the Audhya team describes how, using genome editing and live cell imaging, they were able to identify that a single protein called Sec23 is a central regulator of COPII. This significantly advances our understanding of COPII, and could eventually help researchers to develop new treatments for diseases like cancer, diabetes and those that cause immune dysfunction. Read the full story here.

Congratulations to the recipients of our 2023 AMD, RP, and Glaucoma & Optic Neuropathies Awards!



It is our pleasure to announce the recipients of our second Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) Awards competition, as well as the recipient of our very first Glaucoma and Optic Neuropathies Award competition. This year, Prof. Nader Sheibani and Assistant Prof. Ismail Zaitoun have won our two AMD Awards, Prof. Kimberly Stepien has won the RP Award, and Prof. Rob Nickells has won the Glaucoma & Optic Neuropathies Award. Each will receive $50,000 of research support over the course of the coming calendar year.

For more information on the winners and their proposals, see the AMD/RP Awards recipient page and the Glaucoma & Optic Neuropathies Award recipient page.

Gamm lab research featured in UW’s Science stories that stood out on campus in 2023


Research by MERI Director David Gamm’s laboratory has made the list of standout UW-Madison research in 2023! You can find more information about this work on lab-grown retinal cells here and in this article by Ludwig et al. published in Cell Reports.

Congratulations to our 2023 Kenzi Valentyn Vision Research Award Winners!



It is our pleasure to announce that Theo Bucci, Bikalpa Ghimire, Jake Khoussine, Michele Salzman, and Tania Sharmin are our 2023 Kenzi Valentyn Vision Research Grant recipients! These one-year grants of $7500 each are funded by the Institute’s annual Cycle for Sight event, which raises money to support research in McPherson ERI member labs and programs. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, led by the Valentyn family, we were able to continue to fund five Kenzi Valentyn awards this year! More information on the winners and their projects can be found here.

New MERI-funded research just published in Cell Reports



Congratulations to McPherson ERI members Ari Rosenberg and Lowell W. Thompson on their recent publication ‘Hierarchical computation of 3D motion across macaque areas MT and FST! This paper, which was published yesterday in Cell Reports, reveals that the macaque middle temporal (MT) area is largely specialized for processing 2D retinal motion and the neighboring fundus of the superior temporal sulcus (FST) contains a prominent representation of 3D motion. It also shows how behaviorally relevant motion representations can be computed from ambiguous retinal signals.

This work was made possible by two MERI awards: The Expanding Our Vision Award (awarded to Ari Rosenberg) and the Walsh Graduate Student Support Initiative Award (awarded to Lowell Thompson) in 2020. This same support also enabled these researchers to obtain an R01 from the National Eye Institute this same year!

Prof. Ari Rosenberg


Lowell W. Thompson

Congratulations to the winners of our 2023 Vision Sciences Poster Presentation Competition!


Graduate student Jake Khoussine won this year’s Vision Sciences Poster Presentation Competition with his poster “Retinal output dysfunction in a model of congenital stationary night blindness”. Graduate student Michele Salzman and Research intern Anoushka Kuckreja took home Honorable Mentions this year. Special thanks to both Nikon and the University Bookstore for supplying prizes for this year’s competition!

Inaugural Daniel M. Albert Lecture


The inaugural Daniel M. Albert Lecture was held at the Health Sciences Learning Center on Thursday, October 26th, with McPherson ERI Founding Director Daniel Albert in attendance. The annual lecture was endowed by Dr. Alice McPherson—Dr. Albert’s partner in launching the McPherson Eye Research Institute—in honor of Dr. Albert’s accomplished career in retina. At Dr. Albert’s request, the inaugural lecture was given by MERI Director David Gamm, MD, PhD, who spoke on Overcoming Challenges to Photoreceptor Cell Replacement. Dr. Albert’s colleagues were pleased to greet him at a reception preceding the lecture, and a dinner following.

Above: Dr. Daniel M Albert with 2023 Albert Lecturer Prof. David Gamm

McPherson ERI Fall 2023 InSights is out!

Cover, Fall 2023 InSights

The new issue of InSights includes an extended look at the MERI-centric gene editing collaboration that recently received a $29 million NIH grant to launch the CRISPR Vision Program; a look at the work of three MERI members in the Department of Kinesiology; an introduction to some of our new trainee members; and images from the Mandelbaum & Albert Family Vision Gallery exhibit, The Soul in Things.

Trout AMD Project Kicks Off in Appleton


The McPherson ERI welcomed close to 200 attendees to a research update on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in Appleton on Saturday morning, September 23rd. Held on the campus of Lawrence University, the talks – by David Gamm, Aki Ikeda, Amitha Domalpally, and Michael Altaweel – kicked off the Trout AMD Project, an accelerated effort to develop new therapies for AMD. Kapil Bharti of the National Eye Institute delivered the inaugural Sandra Lemke Trout Lecture, which was followed by an enthusiastic Q & A session. You can find more photos of the event here.

Above: Sandra Lemke Trout addresses the audience at the opening of the Trout AMD Event

Notice of *NEW* Award Opportunity for MERI Members: Glaucoma and Optic Neuropathies Award

The McPherson Eye Research Institute is pleased to announce an exciting new funding opportunity: The Glaucoma and Optic Neuropathies Research Award! Made possible by an anonymous donor’s generous gift, this competitive award provides $50,000 to advance research on either glaucoma or optic neuropathies and thereby expands our pilot awards program (which includes our AMD and RP awards) to a total of $200,000 of annual research funding! The deadline to submit applications is Sunday, November 5th, 2023.

To be considered for this award, you must (i) be a McPherson ERI member at UW–Madison and (ii) be faculty, a permanent principal investigator, or have limited PI status (see complete eligibility criteria here). Those interested in learning more about this award opportunity can visit our Glaucoma and Optic Neuropathies Award webpage for more details and to download an application.

Notice of Award Opportunity for MERI Members: AMD/RP Awards

The McPherson Eye Research Institute is pleased to announce this Fall semester’s application opportunity for our AMD/RP Awards! Supported by the generosity of Roger and Lynn Van Vreede and by the Robert A. Brandt Macular Degeneration Fund, these competitive, annual awards are intended to advance research on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP). This year, the McPherson ERI is offering two $50,000 awards to advance AMD research and one $50,000 award to advance RP research. The deadline to submit applications is Monday, October 23rd, 2023.

To be considered for this award, you must (i) be a McPherson ERI member at UW–Madison and (ii) be faculty, a permanent principal investigator, or have limited PI status (see complete eligibility criteria here). Those interested in learning more about this award opportunity can visit our AMD / RP Research Awards webpage for more details.

Computational tool helps uncover gene networks of cell fate

A recently published study from the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery (WID), titled Inference of cell type-specific gene regulatory networks on cell lineages from single cell omic datasets integrates both computational and biological sciences by using machine learning to better understand the driving forces of cellular identity. Specifically, WID member and professor Sushmita Roy and her lab used single-cell Multi-Task Network Inference (scMTNI) to detect gene regulatory networks responsible for cell type transitions. Full article

Keywords Gene regulatory networks(GRNs), cellular reprogramming, machine learning, single-cell omics, single-cell Multi-Task Network Inference (scMTNI)

Nonviral base editing of KCNJ13 mutation preserves vision in a model of inherited retinal channelopathy

We are pleased to announce that a new study, with contributions by several MERI members, has just been published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation! The paper, entitled ‘Nonviral base editing of KCNJ13 mutation preserves vision in a model of inherited retinal channelopathy’, provides a preclinical validation of targeted ion channel functional rescue, reinforcing the effectiveness of nonviral genome editing therapy for rare inherited disorders.

Keywords: Gene editing, nanoparticles, nonviral delivery, KCNJ13 loss-of-function nonsense mutation, 61 Kir7.1 ion channel, Leber congenital amaurosis 16 (LCA16), inherited retinal degeneration, induced 62 pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium (iPSC-RPE)

Emerging Technologies at UW-Madison Get Boost from State Funds

Emerging technologies developed at UW–Madison will receive funding assistance as the result of an on-campus grant program administered by UW–Madison’s Discovery to Product (D2P) and a matching grant of $300,000 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). One project that is being funded by these programs is that of MERI member Sanbrita Mondal, who will work with Sensify, Inc. to develop a non-invasive workflow to screen for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Full article

Research Beyond Waisman Center: Discoveries that have spun into products

Multiple discoveries born from the minds and hard work of Waisman Center investigators have left the nest to become successful companies or products that have had a significant impact in the world through translational research. Included is the work of McPherson ERI Director, Dr. David Gamm, who has contributed to advancements in treating ocular diseases. Full article

Faculty receive 2023-24 WARF Named Professorships, Kellett Fellowships, and Romnes Awards

Thirty-five of the University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty have been awarded fellowships from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education for 2023-24. The awardees span the four divisions on campus: arts and humanities, physical sciences, social sciences and biological sciences. Full article

Faculty members of MERI awarded these fellowships include Kevin Eliceiri, Kris Saha, Jill Casid, and Xinyu Zhao. Congratulations to all awardees!





From left to right: Kevin Eliceiri, Kris Saha, Jill Casid, Xinyu Zhao.

McPherson ERI Consortium Receives $29 Million NIH Grant to Advance Gene Editing Techniques

Using several innovative delivery methods, the new consortium – including researchers Krishanu Saha, Sarah Gong, David Gamm, Bikash Pattnaik and T. Michael Nork – will move ahead with gene editing techniques to treat two rare blinding diseases, Best disease and Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).  Read more.

Photos of MERI gene editing researchers
L-R, Krishanu Saha, Sarah Gong, Bikash Pattnaik, T. Michael Nork, David Gamm

McPherson ERI’s Spring 2023 InSights is out!

Our Spring 2023 newsletter reviews the extraordinary career of Dr. Alice McPherson; announces the new Trout AMD Project; and highlights a new $30 million NIH grant to MERI members to advance gene editing therapies for two devastating eye diseases./>


Dr Freya Mowat receives the Dr. Joe G. Hollyfield New Investigator Award for Macular Degeneration Research

The highly prestigious award is presented annually by the BrightFocus Foundation to the top-rated New Investigator Grant recipient in recognition of exceptionally promising and forward-thinking ideas in the field of age-related macular degeneration.  Dr. Mowat holds a joint faculty position as an Assistant Professor in both the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine.  Read more.

Dr. Freya Mowat in Vet Med


Cycle for Sight 2023 surpasses last year’s total!

Cycle for Sight 2023, the McPherson Eye Research Institute’s annual fundraiser, raised $60,000 this year.  Teams participated both at our kickoff event on March 25th at the Princeton Club (which went very well in spite of a snowstorm!), and in the community.

As always, you can continue to donate to Cycle for Sight from anywhere in the world!  

Cycle for Sight supports the Kenzi Valentyn Vision Research Awards, whose Fall 2022 recipients were announced recently.  Also, check out our 2022 annual report to read about McPherson ERI research highlights from the past year.

We’re very grateful to our sponsors, Opsis Therapeutics and the Princeton Club!

Team Tiradani at the Princeton Club, 2023
Team Tiradani at the Princeton Club, Cycle for Sight 2023

New Nanocapsules Deliver Therapy Brain-Wide, Edit Alzheimer’s Gene in Mice

Gene therapies have the potential to treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, but they face a common barrier — the blood-brain barrier. Now, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have developed a way to move therapies across the brain’s protective membrane to deliver brain-wide therapy with a range of biological medications and treatments.

Shaoqin “Sarah” Gong, PhD, has developed nanocapsules that can deliver CRISPR genome editors past the blood-brain barrier, and is aiming to treat various types of retinitis pigmentosa — another advance from McPherson ERI scientists.




The McPherson Eye Research Institute is pleased to announce this year’s recipient of the third annual David G. Walsh Graduate Student Support Initiative (GSSI) awardThe GSSI provides a 1-year grant of $12,000, financed by the David G. Walsh Research Fellowship Endowment Fund, to a McPherson ERI member to support the work of a graduate student. 

Awardee: Principal Investigator Freya Mowat, BVsc, PhD, DECVO, DACVO, MRCVS (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, SMPH; Surgical Sciences, VetMed)

Funding will support the thesis work of PhD candidate Michele Salzman. Michele’s thesis focuses on The Effects of Cadmium Exposure on the Retina in Outbred and Laboratory Animal Species. 


Now in the Mandelbaum & Albert Family Vision Gallery:  Envisioning the Environment – Scenes from Plein Air Artists, featuring works from twelve Wisconsin artists. Stop by to view scenes from all seasons, captured outdoors in settings local and far away, to brighten our days and engage our imaginations.




McPherson ERI 2022 AMD & RP Research Awards

With funding provided by generous gifts from Roger and Lynn Van Vreede and from the Robert A. Brandt Macular Degeneration Fund, the McPherson ERI Leadership Committee is pleased to announce two awards of $50,000 each to advance research in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and one award of $50,000 to advance research in retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

Sushmita Roy, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biostatistics & Medical Informatics, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, for High Resolution Characterization of Photoreceptor Populations in Cell-Based Therapy.



Akihiro Ikeda, DVM, PhD, Professor, Department of Medical Genetics, for Lipidomic Analysis of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Patients.




Mrinalini Hoon, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, for Understanding How Connections Between Inner Retinal Neurons are Altered During Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Congratulations on behalf of the Leadership Committee!


The McPherson Eye Research Institute is pleased to announce six recipients of the first annual McPherson ERI Distinguished Paper Award: Kristina Chern, Ray Doudlah, Vishnu Lokhande, and Steven Mayerl, Philip Myzk, and Aindrila Saha.  Funded by Cycle for Sight, this award recognizes the outstanding work of our trainees and the breadth and depth of research conducted by Institute member laboratories.

**Prizes will be awarded in a brief ceremony to be held at the upcoming MERI-At-A-Glance event on Friday, February 24, 2023. (Registration for MERI-At-A Glance will open soon.) 

Lab-grown Retinal Cells Make Successful Connections….

David Gamm
David Gamm, MD, PhD
Xinyu Zhao
Xinyu Zhao, PhD


Successful connections between several types of dish-grown retinal cells were established in the lab, according to a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The paper, a collaboration between the Gamm Lab (co-first-authors Allison Ludwig and Steven Mayerl) and Xinyu Zhao, PhD, is an essential step in moving toward human clinical trials to treat blindness.  These results follow several important findings along this pathway in 2022.

Steven Mayerl
Steven Mayerl, PhD
Allison Ludwig
Allison Ludwig, DVM/PhD candidate





McPherson Eye Research Institute is pleased to announce the Fall 2022 Kenzi Valentyn Vision Research Grant recipients. These one-year grants of $7500 each are funded by the Institute’s annual Cycle for Sight event, which raises money to support research in McPherson ERI member labs and programs.

David Barnett, MD, mentor Michelle Ciucci, PhD / Freya Mowat, BVSc, PhD, Surgery: Translational Visual System Biomarkers in a Mouse Model of Parkinson Disease

Mason Shipley, mentor Donna Neumann, PhD, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences: In Vivo Knockdown of HSV-1 Latency Associated Transcripts for Prevention of Recurrent Viral Ocular Disease

Praveen Susaimanickam, PhD, mentor David Gamm, MD, PhD, Waisman Center, Identification and Utilization of Selective Cell Surface Markers for Human Cone Photoreceptor Isolation and Transplantation

Serena Wisner, mentor Mrinalini Hoon, PhD, Neuroscience Training Program, Role of Photoreceptor Input for Synapse Formation Across Inner Retinal Neurons

Ruosen “Alex” Xie, PhD, mentor Shaoqin “Sarah” Gong, PhD, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Developing Non-Viral Vectors for Gene Therapy in the Retina

Kenzi Valentyn Vision Research Awards, the McPherson Eye Research Institute’s annual research grant opportunity for trainees, were established in 2017. They are named after Kenzi Valentyn, in honor of her courage and positive attitude throughout her long battle with Kearns–Sayre syndrome, a degenerative disease with symptoms including vision loss, which ended with her passing at age 30 in March 2017. Her many friends and family members, including her parents Tim and Nancy, brothers Brett and Connor, and sister-in-law Mackenzie, have ridden in Cycle for Sight as “Kenzi’s Team” since 2014. The McPherson ERI is sincerely grateful for the Valentyn family’s dedication to vision research.

Past News Article Archive


Spring 2024 Seminar Series

Vision at the Biotech (June 1st, 2024)

12th Annual Alice McPherson Lecture

(June 6, 2024)

2nd Annual Sandra Lemke Trout Lecture

(September 13, 2024)

16th Annual Poster Session & Distinguished Lecture

(October 24, 2024)

2nd Annual Daniel M. Albert Lecture

(November 14, 2024)

Vision Gallery
Changes periodically

Cycle for Sight 2024
Kickoff on March 16, 2024

Dr. Monroe Trout

Picture of Dr. Monroe Trout

Dr. Monroe Eugene Trout, Sr. (1931-2024)


The McPherson ERI notes with sorrow the passing of Dr. Monroe Trout, an Honorary Advisory Board member, supporter, and friend of the Institute since 2013. Alongside his wife Sandra, Dr. Trout has been instrumental in helping the McPherson ERI grow over the past decade, and in giving an outstanding impetus to macular degeneration research at the Institute.

Apart from their steadfast support of vision science and commitment to curing blinding diseases, the philanthropic efforts of Dr. Trout and his wife have had an incalculable impact on people and institutions both within and outside the state of Wisconsin. Their rich legacy of aiding those in need will continue to extend far into the future.

Dr. Trout lived a full, generous, and meaningful life, and will be missed by his McPherson ERI friends and by many others.

Remembering Dr. Alice McPherson

With great sadness, the McPherson ERI notes the passing on January 16th, 2023, of our namesake and co-founder, Dr. Alice R. McPherson. Dr. McPherson’s many remarkable achievements are profiled on our website and are honored in the Spring 2023 issue of our InSights newsletter. Her effects on the McPherson Eye Research Institute and UW-Madison, on many other institutions, and on so many patients and researchers around the world, are incalculable.

Dr Alice McPherson
Dr. Alice McPherson with the Gonin Medal Awarded to her in 2014