LONDON—The 2024 Rank Prize for Optoelectronics has been awarded to four internationally leading scientists for the development of instruments that use adaptive optics technologies to capture high-resolution images of the living human retina. Their pioneering research has generated new fundamental insights into the structure and function of the human eye in both health and disease as well as new clinical interventions to remedy sight loss from common disorders. The scientists are Dr. Junzhong Liang, professor Donald T. Miller, professor Austin Roorda and professor David. R. Williams.

Founded in 1972 by the British industrialist and philanthropist Lord J. Arthur Rank, the prestigious Rank Prize is awarded biennially in the fields of nutrition and optoelectronics. The Prize will be awarded formally at an event in London on July 1, 2024.
Adaptive optics (AO) is a technique used in astronomy to reduce image blur in ground-based telescopes. The seminal invention by Dr Junzhong Liang, professor David R. Williams and professor Donald T. Miller in 1997 combined adaptive optics with an objective wavefront sensor to create a retinal imaging camera that exquisitely controlled the light both entering and exiting the pupil.
The camera compensated for distortions caused by the eye’s natural aberrations, producing a clear image of individual photoreceptor cells.
Since the initial invention, the field of AO-based retinal imaging has expanded rapidly. Successive improvements to the hardware and combinations with other imaging modalities have led to significant achievements in basic science and clinical applications, including the ability to visualize individual cells across all layers of the complex retinal structure. All four prizewinners have continued to play leading roles in these developments.

The adaptive optics retinal imaging techniques pioneered by the prizewinners have enabled microscopic, real-time visualization of the only part of the brain visible to the external world—the retina—without invasive surgery, driving advances in the understanding and betterment of human vision.
Professor Donal Bradley CBE FRS, chair of Rank Prize Optoelectronics Committee, said, “The prize recognizes a seminal contribution to imaging within the eye that opens new opportunities to understand this complex optical instrument and to improve eyesight through precise interventions. The winners are to be commended both on their highly insightful contributions to vision science and their subsequent development of applications.”

Click here to find out more about the achievements of the four scientists.