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Jeffrey S. Mumm

JEFFREY S. MUMM, PhD, the inaugural recipient of the Helen Larson and Charles Glenn Grover Professorship in Ophthalmology, joined the faculty of the Wilmer Eye Institute in 2014. He received a BS in Biology from the University of Iowa in 1994 and a PhD in Neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis in 2000.

During his postdoctoral training with Dr. Rachel Wong, he developed novel imaging techniques to study retinal neural circuit formation directly in the living eye of small minnow-like fish, called zebrafish. Through this experience, he became “hooked” on both the eye as a fascinating and beautiful organ and on zebrafish due to the unique perspectives and opportunities they provide as an animal model system.

One key advantage of zebrafish is that they rapidly regenerate lost cells and tissues, including retinal neurons. In light of this, Dr. Mumm established a method for triggering the loss of specific disease-relevant cell types in zebrafish, such as photoreceptors in the eye. In effect, this creates temporary degenerative disease models that serve to reveal how adult stem cells can replace the lost cells. This approach is used in the Mumm lab to determine how regenerative processes in the zebrafish eye are regulated. The Mumm lab’s ultimate goal is to translate insights gained from these studies into strategies for stimulating dormant reparative capacities in the human eye, and thereby impacting future treatments for age-related macular degeneration and other vision threatening eye diseases.

To leverage another strength of the zebrafish system, Dr. Mumm developed a unique approach to drug screening that places living disease models at the start rather than the end of the discovery process. During his postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Mumm founded a biotechnology company, Luminomics, focused on creating a robotics-automated platform for whole-organism drug screening. This platform can be applied to a near limitless number of biological paradigms and diseases, providing a powerfully versatile resource. The Mumm lab uses this system to develop transfor­mative therapeutic strategies for restoring vision to patients.

Throughout his career and since arriving in Baltimore, Dr. Mumm has had the good fortune to participate in productive collaborations with leading experts, including many of his colleagues at the Wilmer Eye Institute. He is thankful to be part of the rich and vibrant environment fostered at Wilmer and in the larger Johns Hopkins research community.