Ocular Gene Therapy Team

L-R: Dr. Riz Somani, Dr. Matt Tennant, Dr. Ioannis (John) Dimopoulos, Prof. Robert MacLaren, Dr. Ian MacDonald, Janice Hengsbach RN, Dr. Markus Groppe and Dr. Paul Freund.

Ian MacDonald, MD, CM
Primary Investigator
Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Alberta

Dr. MacDonald is a clinical geneticist and comprehensive ophthalmologist.  He has specific expertise in the investigation and treatment of patients with strabismus disorders, retinal dystrophies and clinical electrophysiology.  He has maintained an active research program in the genetics of choroideremia, a specific X-linked retinal dystrophy.


Robert MacLaren, DPhil, FRCS, FRCOpth
Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Oxford

Professor MacLaren has a particular interest in finding new treatments for blindness, particularly in patients with incurable retinal diseases. His research group is currently leading a gene therapy trial to treat choroideremia in the UK.  The trial began in Fall 2011. In total, 12 participants will be followed closely for two years following treatment.


Prof. Miguel Seabra

Chair in Molecular Biology, National Heart & Lung Institute, Imperial College

Professor Seabra’s research interests include many aspects of fundamental cell and molecular biology. He is also interested in the cellular and molecular basis of diseases and is currently involved in research on retinal degenerations (choroideremia and age-related macular degeneration), pigmentation  dysfunction syndromes (Griscelli syndromes), and host-pathogen interactions (malaria). Profile here.


Tania Bubela, BSc(Hons), PhD, LLB
Associate Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Alberta

Dr. Bubela’s empirically grounded research program focuses in three main areas, all related to her training and experience in health and biotechnology law and policy. The three principal foci are:

  1. Knowledge translation in health, biotechnology and new technologies in biomedicine
  2. Impacts of commercialization/open science and intellectual property policies on scientific culture and knowledge and technology flows in health biotechnology
  3. Use of commons theory to analyze the institutional development of bioresource and data repositories for biomedical research and access to genetic resources


Elena Posse de Chavez, PhD(Hons)
Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, University of Alberta

Dr. Posse de Chavez specializes in the field of lipids in the nervous system. She participates in the basic research aspect of the program.


Yves Sauvé, PhD
AHFMR Senior Scholar and Assistant Professor, Departments of Ophthalmology & Physiology, University of Alberta

Dr. Sauvé has expertise in investigating the visual function of patients and mouse models with retinal degeneration, and developing strategies to promote regeneration of retinal ganglion cells. He is also interested in studying the functional benefits of newly identified molecules on regenerating key cell types in glaucoma and other ocular diseases.


Ms. Stephanie Hoang, MSc, CGC, CCGC
Study Coordinator
Genetic Counsellor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Alberta

Ms. Hoang specializes in the field of ocular genetics and regularly meets with patients to discuss their genetic diagnoses, causes, option of genetic testing, treatment and management possibilities and implications to other family members.


Matthew Tennant, MD, FRCSC
Vitreoretinal Surgeon
Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Alberta


Riz Somani, MSc, MD, FRCSC
Vitreoretinal Surgeon
Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Alberta


Past Team Member:

Paul Freund, MD
Graduate Student, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Alberta

Dr. Freund is a recent graduate from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. He has previous experience with electroretinograms with Dr. Sauvé and is currently working with Dr. MacDonald on several choroideremia related projects, including a clinical trial examining the effects of simvastatin in choroideremia.

Ioannis (John) Dimopoulos, MD, MSc
Clinical Research Fellow,  Department of Ophthalmology, University of Alberta