Santa Tumminia, Ph.D.

Santa Tumminia

Santa Tumminia, Ph.D. is the acting director of the National Eye Institute (NEI). She is experienced in basic, clinical, and translational research and executive-level management in government, non-profit, and corporate environments.

Tumminia earned her Ph.D. in biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1987. She trained as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, where she examined the protein-nucleic acid interactions involved in ribosome assembly.

Tumminia joined the NEI Laboratory of Mechanisms of Ocular Diseases in 1991 as a senior staff fellow, studying glaucoma and cataract. In 1998, she joined the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the largest non-government funder of retinal disease research, overseeing its grant portfolio.

Tumminia returned to NEI in 2003, joining the Office of the Director where she has provided leadership to intramural and extramural programs. She has expertise in NEI’s trans-NIH programs in genetics and genomic medicine, behavioral science, angiogenesis, nanomedicine, translational science, and rare diseases. She has fostered strategic partnerships with industry, patient advocacy groups, and people affected by vision loss.

Tumminia has helped formulate and execute new research concepts, such as the NEI Audacious Goals Initiative. She designed, implemented, and now oversees the rare inherited eye disease initiative the National Ophthalmic Disease Genotyping and Phenotyping Network (eyeGENE®). Tumminia leads stem cell and regenerative medicine programs at NEI and was key in launching the new Age-Related Macular Degeneration Systems Biology Program. 

Tumminia has served on many trans-NIH committees and is a member of several professional societies. Recognition for her work includes NIH Director’s Awards for the NIH-wide Strategic Plan Working Group and the eyeGENE® Initiative. In 2018, she received the NIH Director’s Award in Mentoring.

Last updated: October 2019