StarT: Innovative Research Training Network focusing on different aspects of Stargardt Disease

Prof Elfride de Baere, University of Ghent, Belgium

Professor Elfride deBaere

Funded through the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) scheme, the StarT project combined the expertise of academic, industry and patient organisations to train a new generation of vision researchers specialising in inherited retinal diseases (IRD).

Autosomal recessive Stargardt disease (STGD1), as a result of mutations in the ABCA4 gene is one of the most common inherited retinal degenerations. Led by Prof Elfride de Baere, Retina 2016 Speaker, StarT research aimed to understand the regulation of the ABCA4 gene, to elucidate its hidden genetic variation, and to develop novel treatments.

A total of 14 early stage researchers received training opportunities in outstanding vision research groups across UK and Europe, including a secondment under the supervision of Prof Farrar at Trinity College Dublin. These PhD students gained unique experience in omics technologies, diagnostics, stem cell biology, animal models and therapeutic development.

Complementing their time at the lab bench, Fighting Blindness, along with other patient organisations worked to support the early stage researchers. This was done through helping the students in designing new concepts for fundraising to boost Stargardt disease research at the European level, along with highlighting the importance of the patient perspective in research. Fighting Blindness also hosted the StarT Symposium to showcase the work of the StarT researchers as part of the Retina 2022 Hybrid Conference in Dublin and this was the final meeting of the StarT consortium.

This project ran from October 2018 – September 2022 and has now come to an end. All information for this project, including their list of research publications can be found here.

  • The StarT early-stage researchers (ESRs) presented their work at the StarT symposium as part of our Retina 2022 Conference, Dublin Ireland.