Botond Roska has set himself the goal of restoring sight to the blind. Most eye diseases are caused by hereditary or age-related defects in the retina. Roska has carried out pioneering work to identify the approximately one hundred different cell types in the retina and their complex interplay in signal processing.
The scientist is now working on making these fundamental insights beneficial for patients and using gene therapies to alleviate or cure their diseases. Roska achieved a genuine breakthrough when he reprogrammed a cell type in the eye, enabling it to take over the function of defective light receptor cells. He was thus able to make blind retinas light-sensitive again – and clinical trials with blind people have already begun.
Botond Roska, 50, initially studied cello at the Academy of Music in Budapest, but had to give up his musical career due to an injury and subsequently completed his studies in medicine and mathematics. Together with Professor Hendrik Scholl, he became a founding director of the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel, IOB in December 2017. The Körber European Science Prize 2020 will be presented to Roska on 7 September in the Great Festival Hall of Hamburg City Hall.