Patent-Prize awarded for programing of stem cells into Photoreceptors

October 04, 2021


Discovery and utilization of three different transcription factors enables the directed differentiation of human stem cells into photoreceptors


Prof. Volker Busskamp, Member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2, is awarded with the Patent-Prize of the German Ophthalmological Society for his work on photoreceptors. The Biotechnologist and his team developed a technology, which allows the rapid programming of human stem cells to become photoreceptors. The resulting cells are used in retinal research and shall serve in clinical application to treat blindness in the near future.


Photoreceptors are sensory cells of the eye, located in the retina. They enable seeing by detection of the incoming light and its translation into electrochemical signals. Degeneration or loss of photoreceptor cells, as in macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa or retinal detachment, leads to vision impairment or even blindness.


Volker Busskamp and his team established a reliable method to quickly generate photoreceptor cells, which was now awarded with the Patent-Prize of the German Ophthalmological Society. The award honors inventions with patent pending and supports outstanding concepts in Ophthalmology.

The awarded method is based on the discovery and utilization of three different transcription factors, which induce the differentiation of human stem cells into photoreceptors. In the Petry-dish, the cells grow into light-sensitive receptor cells within several days. The method allows for the generation of vast amounts of cell material. This is of particular relevance, as the retina itself does not possess any regenerative potential. The possibility to generate human photoreceptors in the Petry-dish hence opens new prospects in basic research, drug screening, but also clinical application: The possible utilization of the photoreceptors in photoreceptor-replacement therapy is already under investigation.

Prof. Busskamp and his team are involved in the technology transfer supported by a ‘proof-of-concept’ grand of the European Research Council. In the end, a biomedical application of human stem cells programmed into photoreceptors is supposed to be part of an innovative therapy to treat all sorts of photoreceptor-degeneration associated diseases.



Prof. Dr. Volker Busskamp
Universitäts-Augenklinik Bonn
Tel.: +49 228 287-13687
E-Mail: volker.busskamp(at)