Board of Directors

Russell Kelley, PhD, MBA

Dr. Kelley is the managing director for the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ venture arm, the Retinal Degeneration Fund, with responsibility for all external investments that strategically align with the Foundation’s therapeutic mission. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Kelley was a senior program officer with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, where he developed and led multiple advisory boards for identifying and funding gaps in interdisciplinary science and translational medicine, and was director and head of discovery, preclinical and translational medicine, at Tengion, where he helped develop a cell and tissue-based engineering platform for the regenerative medicine company. Dr. Kelley earned a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a doctorate in pharmacology and experimental therapeutics from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.  He was an American Heart Association postdoctoral fellow at UNC Chapel Hill in Dr. Cam Patterson’s cardiovascular biology and translational genomics lab, and recently earned an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

Jean Bennett, MD, PhD

Dr. Bennett is the F.M. Kirby Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology at the Perelman School of Medicine and previously served as director of the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics (CAROT) at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to Dr. Bennett’s positions at the University of Pennsylvania, she has been an Investigator at the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for more than a decade. She also co-founded life science companies Spark Therapeutics (acquired by Roche), GenSight Biologics and Limelight Bio. Dr. Bennett received her Ph.D. in Zoology and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkley, and obtained an M.D. from Harvard University. She also completed postdoctoral fellowships in Radiobiology and Environmental Health at the University of California, San Francisco, Human Genetics at Yale School of Medicine and Development Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She received her B.S. in Biology from Yale University.

Eric A. Pierce, MD, PhD

Dr. Pierce is the Chatlos Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of the Ocular Genomics Institute in the Department of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Pierce received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency in Ophthalmology at Harvard and fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital, Boston, where he also assumed his first faculty position. He was then recruited to the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. He returned to Harvard in 2011 to establish the Ocular Genomics Institute (OGI), which aims to translate the promise of precision medicine into clinical care for patients with inherited eye diseases.

Sanford L. Boye

Mr. Boye is co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Atsena Therapeutics. He is also an Associate Scientist of Pediatrics and Associate Director of the Powell Gene Therapy Center at the University of Florida. His research on AAV and ocular gene therapy spans 20 years and over 110 publications. He has focused primarily on the utilization of recombinant AAV as a gene therapy vector for the treatment of retinal disease and has designed AAV vectors used to establish proof of concept in animal models of autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa, X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, Achromatopsia, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, Usher syndrome and multiple forms of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). Many of these gene therapies have since been applied in the clinic. A secondary focus of his research is synthetic virology. Using a combination of directed evolution and rational design, he aims optimize the AAV capsid and genome to improve its performance and safety. He is a prolific inventor of AAV-related technologies, holding 10 awarded and eight pending patents.

Radha Ayyagari, PhD

Dr. Ayyagari is a Professor of Ophthalmology, Pathology and Biomedical Sciences Graduate program, Viterbi Family Endowed Chair and Director of the Shiley Eye Institute Biobank, at the Shiley Eye Institute and University of California, San Diego, California. She is an internationally renowned leader in the field of genetics and disease mechanisms of inherited retinal degenerations. Dr. Ayyagari obtained her PhD in Biochemistry and trained in ophthalmic genetics during her post-doctoral fellowship. She has published more than 130 peer-reviewed articles, mentors high school, graduate and medical school students, and post-doctoral scholars, and serves on several national and international scientific advisory boards/committees.