OHSU Researcher Receives Award at Usher Syndrome Family Conference

Richard Weleber, M.D., awarded a grant of $50,000

Richard Weleber, M.D., professor of ophthalmology at OHSU Casey Eye Institute, was awarded a grant of $50,000 from the Hear See Hope Foundation to further his research of Usher syndrome, an inherited disorder that causes impaired hearing at birth and progressive vision loss. Dr. Weleber, a leading expert in genetic eye diseases, received the award in July at a national meeting in Portland for families affected by this uncommon and devastating condition. 

Both Dr. Weleber and Mark Pennesi, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology at Casey, were invited to participate and speak at the conference, where they discussed the latest causes and treatments of Usher syndrome. The conference was sponsored by the Hear See Hope Foundation along with The Coalition for Usher Syndrome Research and the Decibels Foundation.

Dr. Weleber, principal investigator of the first gene therapy study in the world for Usher syndrome – the UshStat trial – will use the grant to develop new outcome measures for clinical studies of the disease, and to make available new techniques and methodologies to other investigators. "Ultimately, the goal of this research is to speed the discovery of new treatments and eventual cures for patients with Usher syndrome and related eye disorders, such as retinitis pigmentosa," said Dr. Weleber.

For 37 years, Dr. Weleber has been diagnosing and caring for patients at Casey with degenerative retinal diseases like Usher syndrome. Patients routinely travel hundreds of miles to benefit from his expertise. As a result of his dedication to clinical research and patient care, Casey has been selected as a participating center for a number of groundbreaking clinical trials, richard weleberincluding the first Phase 2 Neurotech treatment trial for retinitis pigmentosa. Dr. Weleber also is co-investigator of two other gene therapy trials, the LCA REP65 study for Leber congenital amaurosis and StarGen for Stargardt disease. Both are Phase 1/2a trials to investigate the safety and effectiveness of using gene medications to treat rare genetic, blinding disorders.