What is RETORNA?

RETORNA in Latin means to “give something back”. We aim to restore sight by using RNA therapies. The proposed doctoral network provides an innovative, international, multi/interdisciplinary platform to train young scientists in the field of vision science. RETORNA proposes breakthrough research, distributed in 10 individual projects, performed by 10 Doctoral Candidates (DCs).

Some of the most highly qualified European scientists of the field will supervise the recruited DCs, who will be awarded with a PhD at the end of the program.

During the 36 months research project, DCs will be provided with different transferable skills, necessary for starting successful careers in academia, but also in other areas: industry, non-profit organizations, consultancy, etc. The training programme will be achieved by a combination of “hands-on” research training, academic and non-academic secondments, workshops on scientific and complementary “soft” skills, facilitated by the Consortium.

DCs will enjoy extra-training within the academic year and through summer courses, annual meetings, lectures, participation in conferences and public activities,

Overall objectives


To implement 10 research projects which will contribute to understanding retinal diseases and will give novel insights towards a potential RNA treatment.


To train a new generation of scientists ready to build a career not only in academia, but also in other fields related to science: public, private, etc.


To provide 10 successful doctoral degrees to the DCs of the consortium and to strengthen bonds between the different partners.


To approach potential stakeholders (affected patients, physicians, industry, etc.) about those advances.

The Doctoral Network “Targeting RNA as an approach for treating retinal disease” aims to study different types of RNA that are expressed in retinal cells.

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By observing bioinformatic models, cell and tissue cultures, animal models, and human patients, we will be able to create RNA profiles for different retinal diseases. This screening will identify several targets that will be used as therapeutic approaches for retinal degenerations.

Selected micro RNAs mimics, RNA-aptamers, and antisense oligonucletides will be used to treat blinding ailments such as DR, AMD, central areolar choroidal dystrophy, RP, and Leber congenital amaurosis.

Furthermore, the potential economic and social impact of such strategies upon European countries will be studied.

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Participating organizations

  • Spain
  • Neurobiology and Neuroanatonmy research group
  • Dr. Javier Sancho Pelluz and Dr. Jorge Barcia González
  • The Netherlands
  • Department of Ophthalmology
  • Dr. Zohreh Hosseinzadeh
  • Germany
  • Institute for Ophthalmic Research /University Eye Hospital
  • Dr. Sven Schnichels
  • Spain
  • Department of Physiology, Genetics and Microbiology
  • Dr. Nicolás Cuenca and Dr. Natalia Martínez-Gil
  • Turkey
  • School of Medicine, Department of Biophysics
  • Dr. Serdar Durdagi
  • The Netherlands
  • Department of Ophthalmology (OOG)
  • Dr. Jan Wijnholds
  • Ireland
  • Cork University Business School
  • Dr. Aileen Murphy
  • Italy
  • Telethon institute for genetics and medicine
  • Dr. Sandro Banfi
  • Spain
  • Mr. David Sánchez González
  • Italy
  • Department Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Prof. Angela Chambery
  • The Netherlands
  • Mr. Theodoor Rutgers
  • Germany
  • Mr. Franz Badura
  • The Netherlands
  • Dr. Sjeng Horbach
  • Ireland
  • Ms. Sandra Redmond
  • Spain
  • Dr. Beatriz Llamusí
  • The Netherlands
  • Radboudumc Graduate School

How we are organised

Project coordinated by Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir (UCV)


Project manager: Andreea Craciun (UCV)

  • Valeria Canto-Soler, MD, PhD. Doni Solich Family Chair in Ocular Stem Cell Research. Director of CellSight – Ocular Stem Cell and Regeneration Program. Associate Professor – Department of Ophthalmology. University of Colorado School of Medicine.
  • Stephen H. Tsang, MD, PhD. Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). Associate Professor. Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute.
  • Jayashree Sahni, MD, PhD. Senior Global Program Clinical Head at Novartis and faculty member of University of Liverpool, Department of Eye and Vision Sciences.
  • Ayse Sahaboglu – Senior clinical biomarker lead at the Boehringer Ingelheim.