Press Releases

Dr. Philip D. Kiser Receives 2020 Pisart Award for Outstanding Achievements in Vision Science

March 16, 2020

Lighthouse Guild Honors Leading Scientist from the University of California Irvine School of Medicine

NEW YORK (March 16, 2020) by PRNewswire

Philip D. Kiser, PharmD, PhD
Philip D. Kiser, PharmD, PhD

Lighthouse Guild, the leading not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization, today announced that Philip D. Kiser, PharmD, PhD, is the recipient of the 2020 Pisart Award for his significant contributions to the field of vision science. His innovative scientific approaches and unique knowledge in the field of carotenoid and retinoid research are advancing our understanding of the visual cycle and associated diseases.

“Lighthouse Guild’s core mission is to improve the lives of people with or at risk for vision loss,” said Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, President and CEO of Lighthouse Guild. “By recognizing outstanding young clinicians and researchers such as Dr. Kiser, we are supporting vision research that will lead to breakthroughs in prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Kiser has already made remarkable contributions to the field and we look forward to seeing his future work.”

2020 Pisart Award Recipient Philip Kiser, PharmD, PhD

Dr. Kiser is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, a member of the UCI Center for Translational Vision Research and is a Research Health Scientist at the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, CA.

Dr. Kiser’s research combines a range of innovative biochemical and structural biology approaches to understand the function and catalytic activity of proteins involved in the visual cycle and the maintenance of photoreceptor cells. His contributions are exemplified by his breakthrough work on RPE65. Mutations in RPE65 cause Leber’s congenital amaurosis and other forms of retinitis pigmentosa which are associated with early-onset blindness. Dr. Kiser determined the molecular structure of this enzyme and provided essential insights into the mechanisms of drug interactions with RPE65 to modulate its activity.

This work is at the forefront of modern structural biology and biochemistry and has enormous relevance clinically. Mutations in the corresponding gene can cause a rare but blinding disease, and RPE65 has evolved as an important target of drugs that modify retinoid metabolism in certain disease states. His work significantly contributed to the establishment of the novel drug class of ‘visual cycle modulators’ that are currently in clinical trials.

His work provided a structural foundation for diseases associated with genetic mutations in the RPE65 gene, which are a common cause of early childhood blindness. He recently published a landmark paper that provides the structural basis of the disease.

Dr. Kiser has published more than 50 manuscripts in top-tier peer-reviewed journals, such as the Journal of Biological ChemistryNature Chemical Biology, the Journal of Clinical InvestigationMolecular Pharmacology, and PNAS. His research has also been recognized with a number of grants, honors, and awards, including a Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Research Service Career Development Award (CDA2), a March of Dimes Travel Award, a Burroughs-Wellcome Collaborative Research grant.

“I am honored to receive the 2020 Pisart Award,” said Dr. Kiser. “Like the Lighthouse Guild itself, I remain committed to improving the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired, and I look forward to further advancing our understanding of ocular retinoid metabolism, which is at the heart of the visual process.”

The Pisart Award was established in 1981 and has annually recognized an early-career vision clinician, scientist or clinician-scientist whose contributions have the potential to substantially influence vision care and/or vision science and has a proven record of accomplishment. As the 2020 Pisart Award winner, Dr. Kiser will receive a prize of $32,000 at Lighthouse Guild’s symposium on October 17, 2020 where he will present, along with a group of colleagues, his work and its role in understanding and addressing vision loss.

About Lighthouse Guild

Lighthouse Guild is the leading organization dedicated to addressing and preventing vision loss. We provide coordinated care for eye health, vision rehabilitation and behavioral health as well as related services directed at prevention, early detection and intervention of vision disorders. Reducing the burdens of vision loss is the cornerstone of what we do. For more information, visit