Highly regarded scientist, eye surgeon joins UO Knight Campus

First published in Around the O on April 8th, 2020.

An eye surgeon who co-founded a start-up to develop a drop for corneal strengthening and an implant for drop-free cataract surgery will join the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact as a research professor on July 13.

Balamurali K. Ambati accepted his offer from the UO on Jan. 3. He will bring his research team and a strong portfolio of externally funded research to the Knight Campus. Ambati is currently an eye surgeon at Pacific Clear Vision Institute in Eugene and maintains a research lab at Loma Linda University in Southern California.

He is widely recognized for work in drug delivery and ocular angiogenesis, the formation of blood vessels in the eyes. Ambati serves as the principal investigator on an effort to develop a novel therapeutic based on stabilizing blood vessels to treat vision complications associated with diabetes.

He will bring that project, funded by National Eye Institute, part of National Institutes of Health, to the Knight Campus. Another example of his recent work includes an NIH-funded effort to study how development of blood vessels — healthy and unhealthy — can affect diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.  

“Dr. Ambati exemplifies the mission of the Knight Campus,” said Robert Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director of the Knight Campus. “He is a visionary researcher and highly regarded clinician with an entrepreneurial drive. Those elements combine to make him a very rare talent who will be an asset to the Knight Campus, the UO and all of Oregon.”

Even before his research successes, Ambati was known for his academic prowess. He graduated from New York University at age 13, and at 17 he completed his medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, earning him distinction from the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s youngest doctor. He was cited in 2015 as the No. 1 eye surgeon in a top 40 under 40 global competition and made the Top 100 Power List of Ophthalmology by The Ophthalmologist magazine.

Ambati, who completed his residency at Harvard University and a fellowship at Duke University, has been in practice for 18 years as a cataract, cornea and refractive surgeon. He served at the Medical College of Georgia for five years before spending nine years at the University of Utah, where he oversaw cornea research.

He has performed thousands of cataract surgeries, LASIK and other vision correction procedures. His expertise includes advanced lens implants, laser cataract surgery, all-laser LASIK, cornea transplants, iris repair and other cornea procedures. 

“The University of Oregon, through its Knight Campus, is amassing a rare collection of talent and making critical connections in the state and region,” Ambati said. “It is a thrill to join such an amazing group of faculty and an honor to serve in such a collaborative environment so focused on making a positive impact on people’s lives.”

By Zack Barnett, University Communications