Renowned research scientist Dr. Pete Coffey plans to join UCSB’s Neuroscience Research Institute beginning in November as part of a collaborative initiative to study the potential of stem cells in blindness prevention.

Coffey currently serves as the director of the London Project to Cure Blindness, a research effort originating at the University College of London. Funded by a grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Coffey will soon relocate to UCSB where he will continue to conduct ocular research.

At UCSB, Coffey is set to become the director of the Center for the Study of Macular Degeneration, as well as to become actively involved with the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering.

According to Coffey, his decision to relocate to UCSB was largely influenced by incumbent UCSB researchers.

“[I decided to come to UCSB] because of the people already based at UCSB, specifically [Lincoln] Johnson and Dennis Clegg, as well as CIRM’s commitment in California to stem cell research, which will also bring the pioneering stem cell scientist James Thomson to UCSB,” Coffey said.

Other NRI researchers on campus eagerly anticipate the addition of Coffey to an already acclaimed research faculty.

“Dr. Coffey is a global leader in stem cell research. He will be a tremendous addition to the stem cell center and bolster our world-renowned research in the visual sciences and accelerate our efforts to develop stem cell therapies for ocular diseases,” Dr. Dennis Clegg, co-director of UCSB’s Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering, said.

Age-related macular degeneration will be the primary focus of Coffey’s research.

“My scientific background has been in cell therapies for retinal disease, of which my major interest has been age-related macular degeneration,” Coffey said.

Many cases of macular degeneration result in blindness. Accordingly, Coffey’s research will explore the use of transplantation of functioning retinal pigment epithelial cells derived from human embryonic stem cells as a method of replacing degenerated cells.

If successful, Coffey’s method could be used in a clinical setting to help those suffering from blindness due to macular degeneration.

Teamwork may be key to Coffey’s success. In the past, Coffey has been involved in numerous group research efforts and hopes to produce top-notch results in a timely fashion here at UCSB.

“He is already developing collaborative projects with UCSB researchers in the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering and Center for the Study of Macular Degeneration,” Clegg said. “I think you will see some very