Dean of Innovation and Impact
- School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences - Dean of Innovation and Impact
- Centre for Experimental Medicine
- Institute for Health Sciences
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Professor Stitt is internationally known for his research in ophthalmology, particularly in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy and age-related retinal disease (~12K citations and 61 H-index). His research efforts established the role of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) and their receptors in the progression of retinal vascular diseases and his work has uncovered several inter-related pathways involved in neuroglial and microvascular dysfunction in the diabetic and ageing retina. This research has led to the development and testing of several drugs that have progressed to clinical trials in diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema.
With a network of local, national and international collaborative partners, Professor Stitt has pioneered the concept of re-vascularising ischaemic retina. This has revealed a novel therapeutic approach for treating diabetic retinopathy and other retinal disorders. His research has revealed several important mechanisms such as inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines (especially TNFα) and the role of erythropoietin in diabetic eye disease, especially from the perspective of vasopermeability and mechanisms of angiogenesis. His role in identifying that EPO-analogues can promote vascular recovery of ischaemic retina whilst preventing neurodegeneration has recently led to a Belfast-based Phase I trial using ARA290 as a novel EPO analogue to reverse diabetic macular oedema. Linked to this regenerative theme, is his work on harnessing the potential of umbilical cord and peripheral blood-derived endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) to re-vascularise the ischaemic retina. In partnership with his colleague Dr Medina, their aligned research groups’ have identified, isolated and characterised a unique progenitor cell-type and proven its vasoreparative properties in vivo. Ongoing research is identifying the unique properties of these cells and their distinct molecular nature that makes them important homeostatic cells that maintain vascular health in the retina and other vascular beds. A current project is bringing this “cell therapy” to the clinic and the team, consisting of stem cell biologists, medical retina specialists and vitreoretinal surgeons are working on a two-year time-frame to treat patients with ischaemic central retinal vein occlusion.
My research team consists of several PhD students and post-docs conducting several ongoing projects involving multiple funding streams and local/national/international collaborators:
- Harnessing ECFCs to repair choriocapillaris during geographic atrophy
- The role of the placental growth factor pathway in age-related retinal disease
- Metabolic plasticity of retinal cells in ischaemia and the potential to regulate physiological angiogenesis
- Identifying key molecular mechanisms underpinning ECFC dysfunction in diabetic microvascular disease.
- Development of vascular stem cell therapy for ischaemic retinopathy
- Combinatorial cell therapy for reversing tissue ischaemia
- The potential of iPS cell technology to understand mechanisms underpinning patient responsiveness to anti-VEGF agents for diabetic macular oedema
Achievements and Distinctions
Professor Stitt is a member of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) and he has also earned significant prizes including a Royal Society Merit Award, the Sir Jules Thorn Biomedical Science Award, the JDRF Mary Jane Kugel Award and the 5th Fincham Medal in recognition of research on diabetic retinopathy and neovascular events in diabetes. He contributes significantly to the international academic community by serving on advisory boards, grant panels and presenting guest lectures across the world. He is the Editor for Current Eye Research and also an Associate Editor for Diabetologia. He is also an editorial board member for several other ophthalmology and vascular biology journal.
Professor Stitt was appointed to the McCauley Chair of Experimental Ophthalmology in 2001. For over 12 years he was Director of the Centre for Vision & Vascular Science (CVVS) and then the re-configured Centre for Experimental Medicine. He is now Dean of Innovation and Impact within the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences (MHLS) in which he promotes academic-commercialization partnerships and a culture of entrepreneurship. In this role he leads the MRC Confidence in Concept (CiC) and Proximity to Discovery (P2D) awards which provide seed-corn funding for researchers to develop their ideas for commercialization and industry engagement. Also in this Deans role he leads the development of the Core Technology Units (CTUs), MHLS Technician Commitment and oversees the PG Research programme. I also lead the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) for QUB which is focused on provding a range of funding streams relating to ophthalmology and respiratory disease. There is also a strong research public engagement aspect which seeks to provide faculty-wide opportunities for researchers to develop broader and deeper impact outcomes for their research.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
The Vasoreparative Potential of Endothelial Colony Forming Cells: A Journey Through Pre-clinical Studies
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Research output: Contribution to journal › Review article
Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1552-5783
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Inc.
Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 3.26 SJR 2.058 SNIP 1.222
Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1432-0428
Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 5.09 SJR 3.228 SNIP 1.619
Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1432-1955
Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 2.46 SJR 0.991 SNIP 1.001
Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1468-2079
BMJ Publishing Group
Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 3.26 SJR 2.173 SNIP 1.75
Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1090-0535
Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 2.39 SJR 1.036 SNIP 0.812
Contribution to conference papers, events and activities