I am the Helmut Ecker Endowed Professor of AMD at the Institute of Ophthalmic Research, University of Tübingen, Germany. I lead a research team studying the molecular mechanisms driving age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the third leading cause of blindness worldwide. In particular I focus on the role of the complement system, a powerful part of a host’s immune system, in the development of this devastating disease and how the modulation of such as response can be harnessed to slow disease progression.
My translational portfolio includes the development of novel complement modifiers that can be used as therapeutics in complement-mediated diseases of the eye, as well as around the body. I also help develop new diagnostic tools for complement driven disease and methods for patient stratification for future treatment.
In 2015 I co-founded the Manchester Eye Tissue Repository (ETR) with Prof. Paul Bishop, where genotyped and phenotyped human eye tissue is collected and stored to act as an international resource for academic research into eye diseases: one of the only such resources in Europe.
Simon obtained his B.Sc. in Biochemistry (with Immunology) at the University of Aberdeen in 2002 and subsequently spent a year working in industry on the development of diagnostic tests for cardiovascular disease. In 2003 Simon matriculated at Oxford to begin his D.Phil. studies investigating the interaction of complement factor H (FH), an innate immune regulator, with endogenous sugar molecules as a mechanism for host recognition. It was during his time in Oxford where he was the first to describe the biochemical effects of a genetic polymorphism in FH associated with developing Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the western World.
In 2006, Simon moved to the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, to study further the regulation of innate immunity on extracellular matrices and successfully identified the sugar molecules that FH binds to in Bruch’s membrane, the site of AMD pathogenesis. Importantly, he found that the disease-associated polymorphism reduced the ability of FH to bind Bruch’s membrane leading to the proposal of a novel disease mechanism for AMD.
in 2013 Simon was awarded an MRC Career Development Fellowship and moved to the Faculty of Medicine and Human Sciences, University of Manchester. Simon used this opportunity to study potential roles of the factor H-related (FHR) proteins in the pathogenesis of AMD and other extracellular matrix diseases. Simon's work identified a protein, made by alternative splicing of the FH gene; called factor H-like protein 1 (FHL-1), is actually the main complement regulator in Bruch’s membrane. He also characterised the diffusion properties of human Bruch's membrane for soluble complement proteins. Both of these works fundamentally changed the way complement-mediated therapeutics were designed and delivered into the eye as treatments for retinal degenerative diseases.
In 2015 Simon co-founded the Manchester Eye Tissue Repository (ETR) with Prof. Paul Bishop, where genotyped and phenotyped human eye tissue is collected and stored to act as an international resource for academic research into eye diseases: one of the only such resources in Europe and now houses ~1500 donors.
in 2019, after an international recruitment campaign, Tübingen University awarded Simon the Helmut Ecker Endowed Professorship in AMD. Today, Simon leads the research programme investigating the molecular mechanisms driving Age-related Macular-Degeneration, and the development of therapeutics to treat this devastating disease.
Memberships of committees and professional bodies
Executive Board member for the European Complement network
Editor for Scientific Reports
Academic Editor for PLoS ONE
Editorial Board member for Frontiers in Immunology (Molecular Innate Immunity section)
Guest Editor for Immunobiology 2018
Member of the Macular Society’s Professional Advisory Panel