Principal Investigator

Leah Owen, MD, PhD

Dr. Owen’s systems-biology model is informed by her doctoral training in molecular cancer biology. In this context, the analysis of human tissues is a commonly used and effective tool to understand cancer mechanisms. However, this is not easily accomplished in eye disease as ocular tissues are generally not removed for treatment.

To incorporate this level of understanding into her study of eye conditions, Dr. Owen completed post-doctoral training in systems-biology analysis of neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with the internationally recognized systems-biology scientist and geneticist Margaret DeAngelis, PhD. Dr. Owen uses her diverse foundation to take a multifaceted approach toward understanding the roots of human ocular disease to inform preventative and curative therapies.

To date, her work has:

  • Identified novel mediators and genetic changes important for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and AMD.
  • Described single-cell gene signatures in normal and diseased human eye tissue.
  • Innovated a new protocol for postmortem eye tissue analysis, termed the “Utah Protocol.”
  • Developed a new model for prediction of ROP disease in preterm infants.
  • Described new disease-causing mutations in families with inherited ocular disease.
  • Elucidated patterns of eye disease in underrepresented and studied populations.
  • Described new surgical techniques for children with cataracts.