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Dr. Dean Bok Awarded Prestigious Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research

  • Press Release
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UCLA Professor Honored for Retinal Cell Discoveries

SEATTLE, WA—Noted vision researcher Dr. Dean Bok of UCLA will today receive the prestigious 2016 Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research. Keller Johnson-Thompson, a member of the Helen Keller family, will present the prize this evening at a Seattle ceremony coinciding with the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

Dr. Bok is being honored for more than four decades of discoveries in the field of retinal cell biology. He has greatly advanced the scientific study of molecular complexes in the retinal pigment epithelium, or RPE. The RPE permits eyes to function by clearing, on a daily basis, the visual pathway of dead and damaged cells. Dr. Bok has significantly improved the understanding of macular degeneration, which damages vision in as many as 11 million people in the U.S.

“It is a profound honor to be named a Helen Keller Laureate. Blind and deaf from the age of 19 months, Helen Keller represents the ultimate in faith, insight, compassion, tolerance, eloquence and persistence,” said Dr. Bok. “I am truly blessed to receive an award that carries her name.”

“Helen Keller died in 1968, the same year Dr. Dean Bok received his doctorate degree, and she knew the pace of vision research was accelerating.  As much as anyone in subsequent decades, he embodies the progress she foresaw,” noted Robert Morris, MD, president and co-founder of the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education.

“Because of Dr. Bok we know much more about the eye and retinal disorders,” said Stacy Pagos Haller, BrightFocus Foundation president and CEO. “As an organization committed to ending macular degeneration, BrightFocus is proud to honor Dr. Bok as the 2016 Laureate.”

About Dr. Dean Bok

Dean Bok, PhD, is Distinguished Research Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He also is a member of the Brain Research Institute of UCLA, and a member and Dolly Green Chair of Ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute of UCLA.

About the Helen Keller Prize

The prize was established in 1994 by the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, which was founded in 1988 by Helen Keller’s family and scientists dedicated to fighting blindness. The presenting sponsor of the prize, BrightFocus Foundation, is a nonprofit organization supporting research and public awareness to help conquer the brain and eye diseases of Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.