John S. Penn, Ph.D.

John S. Penn, Ph.D.

Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs

Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Snyder Chair in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Professor of Medical Education and Administration

Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology

8009 Medical Center East, North Tower
(615) 936-1485


Molecular basis of retinal vascular disease

Research Description

Penn's long-standing interest is in the molecular basis of retinal vascular disease. The over-reaching goal of his research is to characterize the processes involved in retinal vascular inflammation and angiogenesis, and to begin to develop preventive strategies based on understanding gained from in vitro and in vivo studies. The Penn lab has the capability to isolate and culture a variety of primary cells from retinal tissue of several species, including retinal vascular endothelial cells, choroidal endothelial cells, retinal Müller glia, retinal pericytes and retinal pigment epithelial cells – all of which are involved in vascular diseases of the retina. In addition, the lab uses a battery of in vivo models of vascular diseases of the eye including rodent models of retinopathy of prematurity, neovascular age-related degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Using these in vitro and in vivo tools, Penn's research program focuses on pro-inflammatory and pro-angiogenic molecular signaling in the retina with an emphasis on drug target identification, and development of novel targeted therapies and mechanisms of drug delivery to the eye.

Penn has been continuously funded by the National Eye Institute of NIH for 30 years. He is currently the President of the International Society for Eye Research.