Daniel M. Schwartz
Daniel M. Schwartz
Newly Appointed Physician in Residence at the Merkin Institute for Translational Research (MITR/MI)
Dr. Dan Schwartz was appointed as Physician in Residence at The Merkin Institute for Translational Research on July 1, 2020. Dan's charge as the Institute's founding Physician in Residence is to promote and support translational research and education from his perspective as an academic clinician and an active translational researcher. Working with the MI leadership team (Professor Barbara Wolf, Director and Dr. George Tolomiczenko, Executive Director), Dan is actively expanding a Caltech/UCSF Innovation Collaboration program that he originated with Caltech Chemistry Professor Bob Grubbs, in which Caltech researchers pair with leading clinicians at UCSF to identify and solve high-value translational problems. Dan will also be working with Caltech MD-PhDs, postdocs, grad students, and undergrads to help them explore and establish their own translational career paths.
Dan completed medical school at UCSF, followed by a residency in Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Hospital. He then received specialty training in vitreoretinal surgery, medical retina, and ultrasound. For the past 30 years he has been on the full-time faculty at USCF where he held the Shirley Reich Chair in Ophthalmology and directed the Retina Division at both UCSF and the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
Over the past 25 years, Dan has collaborated with several faculty at Caltech working to develop various medical devices and more recently, therapeutic agents. With Bob Grubbs (Chemistry), Julie Kornfield (Chemical Engineering), and post-docs Chris Sandstedt and Jagdish Jethmalani, Dan collaborated to develop the Light Adjustable Lens (LAL), the first intraocular lens for cataract surgery that can be adjusted non-invasively using light. This enables patients to have optimal vision after cataract surgery without the use of spectacles. The LAL is now FDA approved and is being commercialized by RxSight (rxsight.com) in the US.
With Scott Fraser (now at USC), Bob Grubbs, and post-doc Jeff Fingler, Dan collaborated to develop optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA), the first non-invasive means of imaging the retinal vasculature. This technology is now widely used internationally in the care of patients with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and other retinovascular diseases.
Dan has also worked Mory Gharib (Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering) and David Jeon, PhD to treat corneal blindness, one of the most common causes of blindness in under-developed countries. This is a very challenging project, but they are developing a prototype device which could be inserted just like an intraocular lens that could restore vision in these patients who are blind from severe bilateral corneal scarring.
More recently, Dan and Bob Grubbs have established a collaboration with Lasker Award winner, Napoleone Ferrara, MD (UCSD), to develop a new class of pharmaceutical agents to treat retinovascular disease. Their start-up, NVasc, has demonstrated proof of concept in animal models and is currently embarking on the pre-clinical studies required to initiate clinical trials.
Broadly, Dan's work with Caltech can be seen as an academic physician leveraging the world class science and engineering at Caltech to solve problems he has confronted over his career in ophthalmic care. Because Caltech does not have a medical school, there is often an important practical knowledge-gap among its researchers about important unsolved problems in the clinic; likewise, leading academic clinicians are generally unaware of newly emerging basic discoveries and technologies that could be leveraged to enhance clinical care. Bob Grubbs and Dan began to effectively bridge this gap by organizing on or two UCSF/Caltech Innovation Symposia each year. These symposia bring together innovative physicians from across UCSF Medical School (e.g., Surgery, Anesthesia, Urology, Interventional Radiology, Neurosurgery, Cardiology, etc.) who have recognized an unsolved problem, have a general idea regarding a potential solution or approach, but are missing the science/engineering to establish feasibility. After Caltech faculty listen to the problems and possible solutions, they begin to suggest approaches stemming from their various areas of expertise. Ideally, there is a magical spark and both the physician and Caltech faculty member see a new way forward. When this happens, a collaboration is formed, hopefully eventually ending up with proof of concept, patent filings, and a start-up company.
In his new role as Physician in Residence at the Merkin Institute, Dan will work with Caltech faculty, graduate students, and post-docs to actively find physician collaborators with whom they can work to leverage their science and engineering to promote advances in patient care. In this regard, he is scheduling a series of specialty-based symposia, the first of which was held on November 6, 2020 between Caltech faculty and UCSF Neurosurgery. See LINK HERE for a list of upcoming symposia. Dan is also meeting with various Caltech faculty to learn more about their science with the hope that he can connect them with potential physician collaborators. He is also available for graduate students and post-docs who are working on various inventions that may have medical applications. Dan can make targeted introductions to physicians who might both evaluate and collaborate on these inventions.
Dan is very excited to be at Caltech working with the Merkin Institute team. "I have been privileged to work alongside such wonderful scientists and engineers at Caltech trying to invent better solutions for the problems I confront in the clinic. There is so much talent and creativity at Caltech; I want to see it leveraged to improve healthcare worldwide."