Precision Ophthalmology




Our Vision of the Future 

Over the past 150 years, the Department of Ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center has been at the forefront of most major advances in vision care. Today, we stand poised to transform the field yet again, as our specialty converges around a revolutionary concept called Precision Ophthalmology.™  Defined as customized genetic, diagnostic, and translational clinical care, Precision Ophthalmology™ uses each patient’s own genetic profile to tailor a course of treatment specifically designed for him or her. 

This approach iaims to correct “nature’s errors” and cure disorders that have impacted human beings for as long as we can remember. To create these individualized treatments, we are merging previously disparate bodies of scientific knowledge ranging from molecular and cellular biology to imaging, bio-informatics, and genomics in a team approach to medicine that combines research, the talents of our basic scientists and the clinical skills of our physicians. 

Our integrative Precision Ophthalmology™ approach is already bearing fruit. One of our world-renowned researchers is currently using translational genetics to study the way the eye is formed, as shown in the video produced by Columbia University Medical School External Communications.

Other investigators are collaborating to unlock the genetic basis of myopia and retinal degenerations, and to use these insights to develop novel therapies to prevent disease progression. Our glaucoma scientists are combining novel insights into the cellular causes of this serious disease to propose new diagnostic and therapeutic paradigms. 

We have launched a major Clinical Trials Unit to speed progress of new therapies based on these and other discoveries. In addition, several of our laboratories have combined to genotype over 800 patients with retinitis pigmentosa and juvenile macular degeneration. Our researchers are now awaiting FDA approval for gene therapy approaches to restore these patients’ sight and peace of mind. Such breakthroughs in vision science will empower our patients, both young and old, to live much more fulfilling lives. Thanks to our place within Columbia University, one of the world’s leading institutions for medical research, and our partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, ranked sixth in the nation and the top hospital in New York, our Department of Ophthalmology is uniquely positioned to realize the full potential of Precision Ophthalmology.™

When the White House announced a national initiative to advance Precision Medicine, Columbia embraced it wholeheartedly, securing major federal funding and placing itself at the vanguard of this revolution in healthcare. The Columbia Precision Medicine Initiative aligns scientific, medical and administrative leaders across the Columbia University campus, and our program is a cornerstone of this initiative.

Within these pages, you will learn how we are unlocking the potential of Precision Ophthalmology™ to assess disease risk among our patients, deploy a fine-tuned protect and restore vision. Precision Ophthalmology™ allows us to take a true patient-specific approach to vision care, diagnosing and treating eye disorders that affect large populations, but at a highly personalized, individual level. It is the ophthalmology of tomorrow, and we are excited to be bringing it to our patients today. 

G.A. (Jack) Cioffi, MD
Edward S. Harkness Professor
Jean and Richard Deems Professor Chairman, Department of Ophthalmology


The Precision Medicine Initiative at Columbia University ​

“Our initiative goes beyond new cures for disease and the practice of medicine. It encompasses virtually every part of the University, including areas that explore fundamental issues of human self-knowledge and the legal, policy, and economic implications of revolutionary changes in our understanding of human biology.“ - President Lee C. Bollinger

Precision Medicine, Clinical Delivery - Ophthalmology is a promising specialty for implementing Precision Medicine because of the eye’s amenability to intervention and the significant human and economic burdens it incurs. Retinal degenerations (see video, below) affect 10 million Americans and account for a significant portion of the USA’s annual $51 billion dollar healthcare expenditure on ophthalmology. The prevalence of blindness is expected to double by 2020 due to the aging population, which will only exacerbate health care costs, (read more).

Precision Ophthalmology Conference  

The annual conference of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, highlights the ground break work and updates in ophthalmoic specialites, year over year. Sponsored by Columbia Ophthalmology Alumni Society and the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute, click the link below to visit landing pages for each year's conference information:

Precision Ophthalmology at Columbia1


1 Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Department of Ophthalmology & hgDesign NYC (2016). Precision Ophthalmology at Columbia. J. Heffner, B. Wang, V. Williams-Sanchez, MS, PMP, (Eds.). New York, New York.