Stephen Tsang, MD PhD

stephen_tsangStephen Tsang, MD, PhD, is an associate professor in Departments of Ophthalmology, Pathology-Cell Biology and Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University, where he began his medical genetics training under the tutelage of Professor Victor A. McKusick. He received his M.D.-Ph. D. degrees from the NIH-National Institute of General Medical Sciences Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at Columbia University. Dr. Tsang then completed his residency at Jules Stein Eye Institute/UCLA under the guidance of Professors Debora Farber, Joseph Demer and Bartly Mondino.

Since 1992, Dr. Tsang has been culturing embryonic stem (ES) cells and in 1995 created the first mouse model for a recessive form of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) by applying homologous recombination to ES cell technology. Three elements define the strength and uniqueness of the his laboratory. First, by leveraging his genetics clinical practice in which over 1000 retinal patients are cared for, Dr. Tsang brings an array of valuable clinical resources to his research, including tissue, stem cells, live imaging data, and genotyping data.

Second, Dr. Tsang and his students are recognized experts in a broad array of state-of the-art technologies: gene editing, transgenesis, viral vectors, stem-cell engineering, proteomics, pre-implantation embryo and retinal surgery, electrophysiology, and non-invasive imaging in mice and humans.

Third, Dr. Tsang is one of a handful of ophthalmologists who can direct the full spectrum of bench-to-bedside research. His research on cGMP-phosphodiesterase (PDE6) is a case in point. PDE6 defects lead to blindness in 72,000 people worldwide. He  generated the world’s first gene-targeted model of retinal degeneration (a PDE6 mutant), and then used these mice to dissect the underlying pathophysiology. These studies led to novel and fundamental discoveries on PDE6 regulation of G-protein-coupled-receptor signaling and, eventually, preclinical testing in the same mice; of the different therapies tested, viral-gene therapy is slated for a clinical trial.

In addition to bench research, Dr. Tsang is also a well-respected educator and clinician. As a Director of an Ophthalmology-Basic-Science Course, he received rave reviews, and the enrollment doubled since he took over the responsibility of the course director. Among his trainees are Nan-Kai Wang, MD at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and Werner Cella, MD at Brasília who now run referral centers for retinal degenerations in Taiwan and Brasil, respectively. Dr. Wang has just elected to the Macular Society, an honor society of the world’s top 430 retinal physicians.

Dr. Tsang contributions to retinal degenerations were recognized by the 2003 Burroughs Wellcome Career Award in Biomedical Science, 2005 Bernard Becker Association of University Professors in Ophthalmology’s Research to Prevent Blindness Award; 2013 Dr. Bradley Straatsma lectureship, ARVO Foundation 2006 Alcon, 2011 Genentech and 2013 Pfizer- Carl Camras awards. A highly sought after physician, Dr. Tsang receives numerous referrals, both domestic and international.

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