By DIRK HOFFMAN
Published May 23, 2023
UB faculty member Steven J. Fliesler was recently honored with the 2023 Chancellor’s Award Lecture in Neuroscience and Ophthalmology from the Neuroscience Center of Excellence in the School of Medicine, Louisiana State University Health New Orleans.
It marks the second time he has received the honor. Fliesler, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Meyer H. Riwchun Endowed Chair Professor of ophthalmology, first received the LSU award in 2017.
“This award lecture was presented to Dr. Fliesler because he has been an innovative and insightful scientist who has opened inroads for the understanding of cell and molecular disease mechanisms that lead to retinal degeneration and that can open therapeutic avenues for the future,” said Nicolas G. Bazan, Boyd Professor and director of LSU’s Neuroscience Center of Excellence.
Previous winners include 18 Nobel laureates in physiology and medicine, according to Bazan.
“I have to say that I was quite surprised to be chosen yet again as the recipient for this particular prestigious award. I didn’t even know that that was possible,” Fliesler said. “It is a huge honor, especially considering the list of ‘notables and quotables’ who have preceded me over the years, including several Nobel Prize winners.”
The title of Fliesler’s April 24 talk for the chancellor’s lecture was “Hereditary Defects in the Mevalonate Pathway and Retinal Degenerations.”
“I covered an overview of research that has gone on in my laboratory over the course of the past three decades concerning defects in the metabolic pathway by which cholesterol and related molecules are made in every cell and tissue in the body — with a particular emphasis on how such defects impact the normal structure and function of the retina,” Fliesler explained.
“There are several hereditary diseases involving such defects. I discussed what we know about the mechanism of such diseases, as well as the generation of useful animal and cellular models that we are using to learn more about the disease mechanism as a prelude to developing therapeutic interventions to prevent, arrest or retard, or possibly even cure, those diseases,” he added.
Bazan said he first met Fliesler when Fliesler was a graduate student at Rice University and Bazan was a visiting professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
“He used to visit very often because, from early on, he was highly interested in the retina. Since then, I have followed his career with admiration because, progressively, he made major discoveries that have illuminated the field,” Bazan said.
Fliesler serves as vice-chair/director of research in the Department of Ophthalmology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He also holds concurrent appointments as a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and in the neuroscience graduate program, as well as being a research career scientist at the Buffalo VA Medical Center, VA Western NY Healthcare System.
He was named the 2022 recipient of the Retina Research Foundation’s Paul Kayser International Award in Retina Research, presented by the International Society for Eye Research.