Research to Prevent Blindness

In Memoriam: James L. Funderburgh, PhD

With sorrow, Research to Prevent Blindness notes the passing of esteemed vision researcher James L. Funderburgh, PhD, who received an RPB Stein Innovation Award in 2017 and was actively working on a project developing exosome therapy for corneal scarring. Dr. Funderburgh, Professor of Ophthalmology and Cell Biology & Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, received previous grants from RPB as well, including an RPB Jules and Doris Stein Professorship that led to the identification of stem cells in a layer of the cornea called the stroma. More recently, Dr. Funderburgh also participated in RPB grant review committees.

James Funderburgh

Dr. James Funderburgh at work in his lab. 

Dr. Funderburgh’s work on the cornea was inspired by his wife’s corneal disease and the desire for a treatment that would preserve vision in people with similar conditions. Dr. Funderburgh’s wife, Martha Funderburgh, is also a scientist who works in the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration, where Dr. Funderburgh served as the associate director. The two worked together for many years, with Mrs. Funderburgh serving as lab manager in the Corneal Cell Biology Lab, which Dr. Funderburgh established.

Throughout his research career, Dr. Funderburgh contributed to many important discoveries related to the cornea, ultimately enabling a personalized medicine stem cell treatment for corneal scarring.

“Dr. Funderburgh left a wonderful scientific legacy; his exceptional work will continue to impact lives for many years to come," said Brian F. Hofland, PhD. “His death is a sad loss to RPB and the entire vision science field.”

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