Pope Award: Dr. Bennett

Dr. Jean Bennett, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the School of Medicine, was awarded the 1999 Lois Pope LIFE Foundation International Research Award for her research on a treatment for macular degeneration--a leakage of blood into neural cells of the eye that is the primary cause of severe vision loss in the United States and throughout Western Civilization. The award includes a $100,000 research grant.

Dr. Bennett is a senior scientist in the department's F.M. Kirby Center for Molecular Ophthalmology. She also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology.

Dr. Bennett received her bachelor's degree from Yale in 1976 and her Ph.D. in cell biology and embryology at UC, Berkeley in 1980. She received her M.D. in 1986 from Harvard after obtaining postdoctoral training in mammalian embryology at UC, San Francisco. In 1987, she was a fellow in human genetics at Yale's School of Medicine and the recipient of the Stetler Fellowship for Women Physicians at Johns Hopkins in the School of Medicine's Developmental Genetics Laboratory.

Dr. Bennett came to Penn in 1992, where she has been an active member in the Institute for Human Gene Therapy, the Neuroscience Graduate Group and the Graduate Group in Cell and Molecular Biology. Her laboratory pursues all avenues of research relevant to developing treatments for inherited retinal degenerative diseases including macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Along with Dr. Dwight Stambolian--a world-renowned researcher in the genetics of cataracts and myopia--Dr. Bennett established a major program in the molecular genetics of inherited retinal degeneration including age-related macular degeneration. Her research has been supported by the National Eye Institute of the NIH, Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc., The Lions Eye Research Foundation of Pennsylvania, and by private philanthropy.

Lois Pope, a Philadelphia native, founded the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, which is devoted to improving the quality of life for others. She also founded Leaders In Furthering Education (LIFE) which provides financial support to needy youths across America. Through Mrs. Pope's endeavors, LIFE honors disabled American veterans and establishes endowments to medical research, student scholarships, and summer day camp programs.

Dr. Bennett was identified to be the recipient of the 1999 Lois Pope Foundation International Research Award when it became clear that the award was intended for an investigator conducting translational research in the field of age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Bennett's research has received international recognition among peer scientists. The research being conducted likely will lead to improved care for patients with age-related macular degeneration.

Mrs. Pope (right) presented the award to Dr. Bennett (left) last Thursday at a dinner in the Museum's Lower Egyptian Gallery.

Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 21, February 15, 2000