MIT Researchers Dr. James Fujimoto and Mr. Eric Swanson Awarded the 2012 António Champalimaud Vision Award
Share honor with colleagues for pioneering work in the development of optical coherence tomography (see video below)
The António Champalimaud Foundation has announced that James G. Fujimoto, the Elihu Thomson Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Eric A. Swanson, a research affiliate in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), are recipients of the 2012 António Champalimaud Vision Award.
Presented annually, the award recognizes contributions to overall vision research and to the alleviation of visual impairments. Fujimoto, Swanson and their co-award winners were honored at a ceremony Friday evening, Sept. 14, in Lisbon, Portugal. The awards were presented by the president of Portugal.
Fujimoto '79, SM '81, MEng '81, PhD '84 and Swanson SM '84 along with their collaborators, were recognized for the invention of optical coherence tomography (OCT). OCT plays a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of the most important blinding diseases of the industrialized world: macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Currently, it is estimated that more than 40 million OCT diagnostic procedures are performed worldwide annually. That equates to about one OCT procedure per second somewhere around the world. With cardiovascular, gastroenterology, dermatological, cancer detection, and other OCT applications offering tremendous promise for the future that rate may increase substantially.
Fujimoto’s collaborators and co-honorees are Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, dean and professor of ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine at USC; David Huang, MD, the Weeks Professor of Ophthalmic Research at Oregon Health and Science University; and Joel S. Schuman, MD, the Eye & Ear Foundation Professor and Chairman in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The Champalimaud Vision Award is also being shared with a group led by David Williams, a professor of optics, ophthalmology, biomedical engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, for its development of adaptive optics imaging in ophthalmology.
The invention of OCT had its genesis in research that began in the 1980s, conducted at MIT, Lincoln Laboratory and Harvard Medical School. OCT produces high-resolution, cross-sectional and three-dimensional images by measuring the echo time delay of light. It can provide comprehensive information on retinal pathology that cannot be obtained by any other technique. OCT technology has many other applications ranging from intravascular and endoscopic imaging to fundamental research. The team went on to form a startup company and transferred OCT technology to industry, resulting in the first OCT instrument for clinical ophthalmology in the mid-1990s.
“Partnership between academics and industry was critical for the development of OCT and is a powerful approach for translating new scientific discoveries into real world clinical practice.,” Fujimoto says. “Clinical researchers on our team as well as other clinicians at leading international medical centers worked with the early OCT technology, exploring new clinical applications and blazing a trail that the broader clinical community could follow. This interdisciplinary approach was key to the success of this technology.”
In subsequent decades, the investigators would open a new chapter in the history of successful basic and clinical translational science in the field of vision research. Not only did they invent this revolutionary technology, they were the first to describe its application in the diagnosis and management of human ocular disease. Their work is an exemplary case study of how interdisciplinary research can have a significant impact on society. In the early 1990s, when the first paper heralding OCT was published in Science, interdisciplinary work, especially between engineering and medicine, was not as common a practice as it is today. Indeed, OCT has transformed the practice of ophthalmology and plays a major role in pharmacotherapy of retinal disease such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, since it is the most useful tool to assess therapeutic response. OCT is also used in the detection and management of glaucoma. OCT’s ability to measure the response to treatment is important to drug discovery because it can shorten development time, making new drugs available to patients sooner.
"Optical coherence tomography has become a gold standard for the diagnosis and treatment of debilitating eye pathologies worldwide. We at the Research Laboratory of Electronics join the millions of patients whose eye diseases have been treated using OCT in congratulating Professor Fujimoto and Mr. Swanson for their seminal contributions. OCT has been an inspiring example of how groundbreaking scientific research can lead to transformational products that benefit society" said RLE Director and Professor Yoel Fink.
See MIT Press Release HERE.
Professor James G. Fujimoto is a principal investigator in the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, and an Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology at Tufts University. He received his SB, SM and PhD in electrical engineering from MIT and has been on the faculty since 1985 where he is currently Elihu Thomson Professor of Electrical Engineering. His research areas include studies of ultrafast phenomena, biophotonics and biomedical optical imaging. His group’s current work on includes functional OCT methods that can detect blood flow and other tissue properties, enabling better understanding of early disease; and medical specialties such as cancer detection, endoscopy, pathology laboratory imaging and genetics applications. Professor Fujimoto is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Science; and a co-founder of start-up companies that have developed OCT for ophthalmic and intravascular imaging. He is the recipient of many awards and recognitions, including the Carl Zeiss Research Award in 2011.
Mr. Eric Swanson is a Research Affiliate in the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics and received his SM in electrical engineering from MIT. He was previously an associate group leader at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, during which time he co-founded Advanced Ophthalmic Devices, a startup company that developed ophthalmic OCT technology and transferred it to Carl Zeiss. Mr. Swanson left MIT Lincoln Laboratory in 1998 to co-found and become CTO of LightLab Imaging. LightLab Imaging developed the first commercial intravascular OCT instrument and was recently acquired by St. Jude Medical. From 1998 to 2004, he was also co-founder, Vice President, & Chief Scientist of Sycamore Networks. Sycamore went public in 1999 with a $14B IPO. Mr. Swanson is a founding Director of Acacia Communications, HiveFire Incorporated, and Director of NinePoint Medical. He is also founder and editor of http://www.octnews.org/.
Champalimaud Foundation (http://www.fchampalimaud.org/home/), based in Lisbon Portugal, was created by the bequest of the late Portuguese industrialist and entrepreneur, António de Sommer Champalimaud. In 2004, it was officially incorporated as the Anna de Somer Champalimaud and Dr. Carlos Montez Champalimaud Foundation in honor of the benefactor’s parents. The Foundation supports individual researchers and research teams working at the cutting edge of biomedical science. The Champalimaud Foundation Vision Award is 1 million Euros ($1.3M) and is one the worlds largest scientific and humanitarian prizes and the largest in visual research. The award is given in collaboration with Vision 2020: The Right Sight, a global initiative for the prevention of blindness launched with the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. The award is given in alternate years for (1) contributions to overall vision research and (2) contributions to the alleviation of visual problems, primarily in developing countries.