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Helen Larson and Charles Glenn Grover Professorship in Ophthalmology

School of Medicine

Established in 2017 by Helen Larson and Charles Glenn Grover, and The Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund

HELEN LARSON and CHARLES GLENN GROVER were bound not only by their great love and affection for each other, but also by their endless curiosity about the world. After meeting in Utah, they headed east and settled in the Washington, D.C., area. Equally interested in both the arts and sciences, Helen and Glenn developed many interests, including photography, sculpture, metal and woodworking, model trains, Chinese embroidery, ornamental flowers and gardening. They were also lifelong avid readers.

They built a home in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1969 and lived there together until Helen’s death in 2000. Glenn remained in the home while he could, but eventually moved to a retirement and assisted living community. While living there, he participated in the coffee club, took a few local trips to Washington, D.C., and continued to be an avid reader of books and newspapers. Reading was his way to stay connected and ensure that he could converse with visitors.

Glenn was in his early nineties when he noticed he could no longer read the stock market pages of the newspaper. Diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at the Wilmer Eye Institute, he maintained a keen interest in his condition as it progressed and his vision worsened. Before his passing in 2012, Glenn Grover expressed the hope that his gift would benefit ongoing AMD research and help those suffering from the same disease he had. The Wilmer Eye Institute is forever grateful to Helen Larson and Charles Glenn Grover because their generosity has substantially advanced our ability to combat this major cause of blindness.

The Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund (MEIF), administered by the Maryland Department of Commerce, offers a state match to private funds raised in support of endowed chairs at Maryland’s higher education institutions. The Helen Larson and Charles Glenn Grover Professorship was funded by a $1 million grant award from the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund to match the Grover Endowed Fund for Basic Science Research into Macular Degeneration, created by Mr. Grover’s bequest.

Held by 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.