M. Elizabeth Fini, Ph.D.

Specialties

Dr. Fini is a molecular cell biologist, best known for her innovative work on diseases of the eye.

Fini is a member of the Special and Scientific Staff at Tufts Medical Center and serves as Professor of Ophthalmology at Tufts University School of Medicine. She teaches in the Tufts Sackler School Program in Pharmacology & Drug Development. She directs the Scientific Staff Career Development Program for Tufts Medical Center.

The Fini laboratory is located at 15 Kneeland Street, on the 2nd floor of the Tupper Research Institute of Tufts Medical Center. There, Dr. Fini and her team conduct federally-funded research with practical application to dry eye, glaucoma, and prostate cancer.

Biography

Dr. Fini is a molecular biologist, best known for her innovative work on diseases of the eye. In 2002, she shared the Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize from the New York Academy of Medicine for discovery of a unifying mechanism of glaucoma pathogenesis. During the course of her academic career, she has made a significant impact as a mentor to young scientists in eye research, many of whom have gone on to leadership positions at institutions across the USA, and around the world.

Fini began her faculty career at Harvard Medical School. She moved to Tufts Medical Center for the first time with award of the Jules & Doris Stein Research to Prevent Blindness Professorship, and while there, founded the NIH-funded Tufts Center for Vision Research. Subsequently she was recruited to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where she led a major expansion of research programs as scientific director of the Evelyn F. & William L. McKnight Vision Research Center and holder of the Walter G. Ross chair.

Next, Fini was recruited to Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, where she served as research dean during a transformative period in which the university acquired its hospital and substantially expanded its faculty and research programs. She also headed the Institute for Genetic Medicine until its closing in 2017.

In May 2018, with the support of department chair Dr. Jay Duker and the provision of a generous start-up package from Tufts Medical Center, Dr. Fini re-joined New England Eye Center and Tufts Medical Center.

Fini has co-authored a large number of scientific papers and edited a book entitled Vertebrate Eye Development. She has served on numerous federal, state, and foundation committees. This includes a diverse array of National Institutes of Health advisory panels. the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (a state-funded entity), and the scientific committee for the Massry Prize (considered a precursor to the Nobel Prize).

During her academic consulting time, Dr. Fini serves as the Chief Scientific Officer for a start-up biotechnology company (Proteris Biotech) that she co-founded with her husband John Charles Fini. She holds two US patents, with several other patents pending.

A native of greater Boston, Fini (née O’Connor) currently resides with her husband in Mansfield, Massachusetts.

Research Interests

The Fini lab goal is development of innovative therapeutics for the treatment of eye disease. This objective is approached by investigation of disease mechanisms in order to ferret out new drug targets and drugs.

At the present time, the lab is funded by two grants from the National Institutes of Health for the following projects:

R01EY026479, Fini (PI)
09-01-16 to 06-30-21
NIH/NEI
Clusterin at the Ocular Surface

This work is directed towards new treatments for ocular surface disease and dry eye. The specific goal is to understand more fully how clusterin protects the ocular surface, and to identify novel molecules and mechanisms involved in ocular surface protection. Studies employ molecular technologies in cell culture and mouse models, and make use of human tear samples.

R01EY027315, Fini/Gao (PIs)
09-01-17 to 04-30-21
NIH/NEI
Discovery Approach to Ocular Hypertension

This work is directed towards new treatments for ocular hypertension/glaucoma. The specific goal is to identify new genes and pathways controlling glaucoma pathogenesis via pharmacogenomics. Studies employ genomic, statistical genetics and bioinformatics technologies and methodologies using DNA and clinical data collected from human cohorts. They also employ molecular approaches using cell culture and mouse models.

Pilot projects are currently funded by The Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund and Tufts Medical Center. These include:

  • Novel Mucins at the Ocular Surface
  • GPR158 and Prostate Cancer Progression

Education

Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Ph.D. in Biology (Molecular Genetics)

Postdoctoral

Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH
Molecular Biology/Biochemistry

Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Cambridge, MA
Molecular Cell Biology

Academic Appointment

Professor of Ophthalmology, Tufts University School of Medicine
Member, Tufts Sackler School Program in Pharmacology and Drug Development

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