Dr. Gerrit Melles Awarded Prestigious Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research

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Honored for Pioneering Advances in Surgery

BALTIMORE, MD—Noted vision researcher Dr. Gerrit Melles, MD, PhD, of the Netherlands will today receive the prestigious 2017 Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research. The prize, presented by BrightFocus Foundation, goes to an outstanding vision scientist selected by an awards committee of the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education. 

Dr. Melles, a founder of the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery, is a pioneer in developing new techniques for corneal surgery, leading to faster recovery and better patient outcomes.  

Commenting on this year’s laureate, Robert Morris, MD, President of the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, said, "The cornea is the front window of the eye.  By transplanting a single cell layer, instead of an entire cornea, Gerrit Melles showed us a better way to restore clear vision to millions of cornea-blind suffers worldwide. His discovery ranks with modern cataract surgery and deep eye surgery (vitrectomy) as among the most revolutionary eye surgery advances of modern times."

Referring to these new techniques, Dr. Melles said, “Of course it is an honor to be awarded with such a well-recognized prize, but I find it even more important that people hear about lamellar keratoplasty in the treatment of Fuchs endothelial dystrophy and keratoconus. To get new surgical methods accepted more rapidly, a prize like this can be of tremendous help.”

"This year’s prize honors a true pioneer, a researcher whose brilliance and innovation have saved sight for so many people around the world," said Stacy Pagos Haller, BrightFocus Foundation President and CEO. "Dr. Melles is a powerful example of how a bold, tireless scientist can irreversibly change the fields of research and medicine."

The prize will be presented to Dr. Melles this evening at a Baltimore ceremony coinciding with the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

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 defeat Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.