Prof. Clegg earned his BS degree in biochemistry at UC Davis and his PhD in biochemistry at UC Berkeley, where he used emerging methods in recombinant DNA to study the sensory transduction systems of bacteria. As a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Scholar at UCSF, he studied neural development and regeneration. He has continued this avenue of research since joining the UCSB faculty, with studies of extracellular matrix and integrin function in the developing eye. His current emphasis is in stem cell research, with a focus on developing therapies for ocular disease. Dr. Clegg is the recipient of the UCSB Distinguished Teaching Award in the Physical Sciences, the Pacific Coast Business Times Champions in Health Care Award, the National Eye Institute Audacious Goals award, and served as Chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from 2004-2009. He has been a Frontiers of Vision Research Lecturer at the National Eye Institute, a Keynote Lecturer at the Stem Cells World Congress, and a TEDx speaker. He is founder and Co-Director of the UCSB Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering, and has served on advisory boards for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Americans for Cures, and programs in regenerative medicine at the National Eye Institute. He is a Co-Principal Investigator of The California Project to Cure Blindness, a multi-disciplinary effort to develop a stem cell-based therapy for Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
Derivation of ocular cells from embryonic, induced pluripotent (iPS), and adult stem cells have great potential for treating many diseases, including eye maladies such as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Our studies are aimed at understanding the basic biology of how stem cells differentiate into ocular cells, especially retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE). Forming a pigmented monolayer behind the retina, RPE function to nourish rod and cone photoreceptors. RPE are of particular interest because their death leads to blindness. Loss of RPE is thought to be the first event in AMD, which is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. There is great interest in using stem cell-derived RPE to treat this and other ocular diseases. Our laboratory has discovered pathways involved in RPE differentiation, and has developed protocols to generate RPE for clinical application. With funding from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, we are working with a team of investigators from USC, Caltech, City of Hope, University College, London, and Regenerative Patch Technologies LLC, to develop a stem cell-based therapy for AMD.