NEI Welcomes Its First Stadtman Investigator

News Brief
10/03/12

Kapil Bharti, Ph.D., has joined the NEI as a Stadtman tenure-track investigator, a first for the National Eye Institute.

The Earl Stadtman Investigator program, named for the preeminent biochemist who spent 57 years at the NIH, was created in 2009. It is a highly competitive program designed to attract the very best early-career scientists who have a clear and creative research vision and are dedicated to scientific excellence.

Dr. Bharti has initiated a broad effort to generate fully differentiated and authentic retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are artificially derived from adult somatic cells by epigenetic reprogramming. They behave similar to embryonic stem cells in terms of their pluripotential properties. Using such RPE cells, he has developed high-throughput screening assays to identify compounds that can potentially provide therapeutic effects for retinal degenerative diseases. These iPS cell-derived authentic RPE cells will help create clinically relevant in vitro models to study disease mechanisms.

Dr. Bharti is also growing polarized and functional RPE monolayers on artificial biodegradable scaffolds with the goal of providing a safe and more effective cell-based therapy for age-related macular degeneration patients. He is actively collaborating with the new NIH Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the NIH Center for Regenerative Medicine, and with prestigious laboratories overseas.

Dr. Bharti’s laboratory is located in Bldg. 10, Room 10B10, in the Ophthalmic Genetics and Visual Function Branch. He had been with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke before joining the NEI in July 2012.

For more information on the Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator program, go to http://irp.nih.gov/.