Duke Vision Scientist Receives Top Honor from ARVO


Daniel R. Saban, PhD is the recipient of the 2024 Cogan Award, presented by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). This prestigious award recognizes young researchers that have made significant contributions to research in ophthalmology or visual science, and that show substantial promise for future contributions in this field.   

Saban is an associate professor in the department of ophthalmology and integrative immunobiology and a faculty network member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. He is also the Scientific Director of the Foster Center of Ocular Immunology at Duke Eye Center. 

His research targets immunity and inflammation of the eye, specifically the cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to ophthalmic disease and vision loss

Saban's Lab demonstrated that dysregulated immune responses could cause a common ophthalmic condition called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (i.e., a defect eye lid oil glands) that drives Dry Eye disease. Multiple pharmaceutical companies are now leveraging Saban’s findings to develop treatments for this pervasive condition. 

Separately, Saban’s lab and collaborators at University College London, identified a novel immune cell activity that causes scarring in blinding diseases of the ocular surface, including ocular cicatricial pemphigoid. The research is being leveraged to develop a new therapy to treat scarring in this autoimmune disease of the eye. 

Most recently, Saban’s lab has identified a novel protective immune process that promotes resilience in retinal degenerative disease. The intellectual property from his lab’s findings is the basis of a new Duke spinout company, called Bex Vision, Inc., that is developing a treatment and novel biomarker for Geographic Atrophy in Age-related Macular Degeneration. 

In 2022, Saban and colleagues received a major funding award and became a part of a 5-year consortium established by the National Eye Institute and the National Institute of Health to bridge the knowledge gap in the biology of corneal nerves, including how immune cells support nerve function. Duke Eye Center and Pratt School of Engineering were named lead sites in collaboration with Jules Stein Eye Institute and Brain Research at UCLA. Saban and the interdisciplinary team are working to unravel genetic, molecular, and functional properties of corneal nerves in animal models and in humans. This research will allow researchers in the future to identify novel pain processes, markers, and targets from whole genome catalogs, as well as establish precise conserved morphological and molecular motifs and reveal structure-function relationships from "real-world" clinical data.   

Saban presented the Cogan Award Lecture at the 2024 ARVO Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.  

Saban Discusses the Award with Ophthalmology Times

Saban and family at ARVO