Steven J. Fliesler PhD

Steven Fliesler

Steven J. Fliesler

SUNY Distinguished Professor; Meyer H. Riwchun Endowed Chair Professor, Vice-Chair and Director of Research

Department of Ophthalmology

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

Apoptosis and cell death; Inherited Metabolic Disorders; Metabolism; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Molecular Basis of Disease; Neurobiology; Transgenic organisms; Vision science

Contact Information
VA Western NY Healthcare System
Research Service- Bldg 20, Rm 202
3495 Bailey Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14215-1129
Phone: 716-862-6538
Fax: 716-862-6526

Professional Summary:

Our lab is focused on studies of retinal degenerations caused by metabolic defects in isoprenoid biosynthesis, particularly dyslipidemias involving defective cholesterol metabolism (e.g., Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome) as well as defects in dolichol synthesis (e.g., RP59). Ww employ pharmacological and genetically altered animal models of human hereditary diseases. Current studies are focused on the role of lipid and protein oxidation in the underlying mechanisms of photoreceptor cell death in such retinal degenerations, using a combination of genomic, proteomic, and lipidomic approaches. We also study the effects of acoustic blast overpressure on retinal structure and function, and possible therapeutic interventions for blast-induced retinal injury. Research supported by NIH and VA grants.

Education and Training:

  • Fellowship, lipid metabolism and biochemistry of the retina, Baylor College of Medicine (1982)
  • PhD, Biochemistry, Rice University (1980)
  • BA, Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley (1973)


  • SUNY Distinguished Professor, Ophthalmology, SUNY- University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2018-present)
  • Health Systems Specialist, VA Western NY Healthcare System (2008-present)
  • Professor, Ross Eye Institute, University at Buffalo (SUNY) Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2008-present)
  • Vice Chair for Research/Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology, University at Buffalo/SUNY Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2008-present)
  • Professor, Saint Louis University Eye Institute, Saint Louis University School of Medicine (1994–2008)
  • Associate Professor, Bethesda Eye Institute, Saint Louis University School of Medicine (1988–1994)
  • Assistant Professor, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine (1985–1988)
  • Research Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology (Cullen Eye Institute), Baylor College of Medicine School of Medicine (1983–1984)

Awards and Honors:

  • The Retina Research Foundation’s Paul Kayser International Award in Retina Research (2023)
  • The “DOC Lecture 2022”: Closing Keynote Lecture (2022)
  • Distinguished Postdoc Mentor Award 2021-2022 (2022)
  • Chair Professor of Ophthalmology (2021)
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Stephenson Visiting Professor Series (2020)
  • John L. Montgomery, Sr., M.D., Distinguished Visiting Professor (2020)
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Dean’s Lecture Series (2019)
  • The Sydney Futterman Memorial Lecture (2019)
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Grand Rounds (2019)
  • The Nanqiang Memorial Lecture (2019)
  • Distinguished Visiting Lecturer (2019)
  • Roski Eye Institute Distinguished Lecturer (2018)
  • Jules and Doris Stein Distinguished Lecturer (2018)
  • ARVO President (2018)
  • SUNY Distinguished Professor (2018)
  • Dean's Award in Ophthalmology and Neuroscience (2017)
  • ARVO President-elect (2017)
  • Research Career Scientist Award (RCSA) (2016)
  • 2016 ISER Special Recognition Award (2016)
  • Dowling Society Member (2015)
  • 2015 ProRetina Keynote Lecturer (2015)
  • UB Distinguished Professor (2014)
  • SUNY Chancellor‘s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities (2014)
  • Member (elected), Board of Trustees, ARVO (2014)
  • Fellow (Gold Tier) of ARVO (2014)
  • 2013-14 Cell Biology Invited Lecture, OUHSC (2013)
  • 2013 Vanzant Lecture series, Rice University (2013)
  • 2013 Chairman's Lecture series, Duke University (2013)
  • 2013 Anwar Shah Endowed Lecture (2013)
  • Fellow (Silver Tier) of ARVO (2009)
  • Senior Scientific Investigator Award (2007)
  • Chancellor's Award in Neuroscience (2002)
  • Scientist of the Year Award (1999)
  • James S. Adams Research Scholar Award (1992)

Research Expertise:

  • animal models of human retinal degenerations
  • cholesterol metabolism
  • lipid / membrane biochemistry
  • vision research

Grants and Sponsored Research:

  • October 2021–September 2026
    “Research Career Scientist Award (GS-15)”
    Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA)
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • April 2019–March 2024
    Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA)
    National Institutes of Health/NCATS
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • January 2019–September 2023
    “Ocular Sequelae and Intervention in a Rat Model of Blast Overpressure Polytrauma”
    Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA)
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
  • July 2021–June 2023
    “Studies on the requirement of dolichol synthesis-dependent N-glycosylation during photoreceptor development: Insights into autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa-59”
    Knights Templar Eye Foundation
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • April 2019–March 2023
    “Deciphering Genetic and Environmental Influences on Visual Disorders in the Million Veteran Program”
    Dept of Veterans Affairs, Million Veterans Program (MVP)
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • September 2018–June 2022
    Development and characterization of mouse models of RP59 DHDDS deficiency
    National Eye Institute/NIH
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
  • January 2012–December 2015
    Isoprenoid Metabolism in the Retina
    Role: Contributor
  • December 2009–November 2014
    Role of Caveolin-1 in the Maintenance of Blood-Retinal Barrier Integrity(1RO1EY019494)
    Role: Contributor
  • January 2007–December 2011
    Isoprenoid metabolism in the retina(2RO1EY007361)
    National Eye Institute
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • October 2009–September 2010
    Proteasome Function in the Aging Retina(1RO1EY013623)
    Role: Contributor

Journal Articles:

See all (115 more)

Books and Book Chapters:

  • Ramachandra Rao S, Pittler SJ, Fliesler SJ. (1900) Perspectives on retinal dolichol metabolism, and visual deficits in dolichol metabolism-associated inherited disorders. In: “Retinal Degenerative Diseases XIX - Mechanisms and Experimental Therapy.” (Ash J, Pierce E, Anderson RE, Bowes-Rickman C, Hollyfield JG, Grimm C, Eds.). Springer/Nature, Basel
  • Pfefer BA, Fliesler SJ. (1900) Transcriptomic analysis of genes associated with nucleic acid and histone methylation, and one-carbon metabolism, in a mouse cone photoreceptor-derived cell line treated with 7-dehydrocholesterol-derived oxysterols. Implications for retinal and CNS health and disease. In: Essentials in Ophthalmology (Prakash G and Iwata T, eds.), Springer, Tokyo, Japan. Springer

Professional Memberships:

  • International Society for Eye Research (ISER); Co-Organizer, Retinal Cell Biology Section, 2023 Biennial Meeting; Session Organizer (2021–2022)
  • American Soc. for Biochemistry & Molec. Biol. (ASBMB); Member (2000–present)
  • American Soc. of Cell Biology (ASCB); Member (1988–present)
  • International Society for Eye Research (ISER); Councilor for North America (2004-07) Treasurer (2007-11) President-Elect (2010-11);President(2012-14) (1985–present)
  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) (1974–present)


  • "“Inherited Retinal Degenerations: Slip Sliding Away on Lipid Pathways.”" Retinal Disease Interest Group (RDIG 2022-2023 Seminar Series, NEI/NIH, Bethesda, MD (2022)
  • "“RP59: Is it Really a Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation (CDG)?”" International Forum of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (2022 ISPOS-Shanghai). Eye & ENT Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai, CHINA. [virtual] (2022)
  • "“Ethical Conduct in Research: Do This, Not That!”" Research Grand Rounds, Eye Institute of Xiamen University, Xiamen Medical University, Xiamen, Fujian, CHINA [virtual] (2022)
  • "“RP59: Is it Really a Congenital Disease of Glycosylation (CDG)?”" Research Grand Rounds, Eye Institute of Xiamen University, Xiamen Medical University [virtual] (2022)
  • "“Unusual Lipid Metabolism Defects and Retinal Degeneration: A Slippery Slope.”" Seminar, Flaum Eye Institute, University of Rochester; Rochester, NY [virtual] (2022)
  • "“Challenges and Opportunities of International Collaborations.”" CELLBIO 2021, ASCB/EMBO Annual Meeting; Education, Professional Development, Diversity, and Inclusion Session (organized by the ASCB International Affairs Committee). [virtual] (2021)
  • "“Ethical Conduct in Research: Do This, Not That!”" Research Grand Rounds, KUMC- Dept. of Ophthalmology and KU Eye Center, University of Kansas, Kansas City, KS [virtual] (2021)
  • "“Ethical Conduct in Research: Do This, Not That!”" Clinical Research for the Orthoptist Lecture Series; FOREA (Foundation for Orthoptic Research & Education in the Americas. [virtual] (2021)
  • "“Ethical Conduct in Research: Do This, Not That!”" Erie Canal Ophthalmology Lecture Series; NY State. [virtual] (2021)
  • "“The Do’s and Don’t’s of Publishing a Research Article.”" ASCB COMPASS Outreach Webinar Series; American Society for Cell Biology. [virtual] (2021)
  • "“How to Deal with “Senior” Unproductive Faculty.”" Research Directors’ Grand Rounds, AUPO 2021 (Annual Meeting of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology) [virtual]. (2021)
  • "“Ethical Conduct in Research: Do This, Not That!”" Stephenson Visiting Professor Series, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences / Kentucky Lions Eye Center, University of Louisville; Louisville, KY [virtual] (2020)
  • "“RP59: Is it Really a Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation (CDG)?”" Vision 2020, Hamilton Eye Institute, University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN [virtual] (2020)
  • "“Experimental Studies on Closed Globe Acoustic Blast Overpressure Injury to the Retina.”" VA Field-based Meeting on TBI. [virtual] (2020)
  • "“Retinal Degenerations: The Isoprenoid Connection.”" Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and Neuroscience Graduate Program, McMaster University, Health Sciences Center; Hamilton, ON, CAN. (2020)
  • "“Retinal Degenerations: The Isoprenoid Connection.”" Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease (CMBD) Seminar Series, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM. (2019)
  • "“Cholesterol: Twists and Turns of Biology and Pathobiology in the Retina.”" Neuroscience Institute, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN. (2019)
  • "“Retinal Degenerations: The Isoprenoid Connection.”" Dean’s Lecture Series, Department of Pharmacology, University of Alberta, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN. (2019)
  • "“Retinal Degenerations: The Isoprenoid Connection.”" Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine; Calgary, Alberta, CAN. (2019)
  • "“Impact of Cholesterol Deficiency on Retinal Development, Structure, and Function.”" European Frontiers in Ocular Pharmacology, University of Catania Medical School, (2010)
  • "“Retinal Degeneration in a Cholesterol Deficiency Syndrome: What We’ve Learned from Animal Studies.”" Grand Rounds, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, SUNY Downstate Medical Center (2010)
  • "“Impact of Cholesterol Deficiency on Retinal Development, Structure, and Function.”" Vision Club, Dean McGee Eye Institute, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) (2009)
  • "“Retinal Degeneration in a Cholesterol Deficiency Syndrome: What We’ve Learned from Animal Studies.”" Vision Seminar Series, University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, (2009)
  • "“The Ring Trilogy: Cholesterol, Membranes, and Retinal Degeneration.”" Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, School of Medicine (2009)
  • "“The Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome: It’s NOT Just About Cholesterol.”" Department of Ophthalmology, Children’s Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School, (2009)
  • "“Transcriptional and Proteomic Changes in the Retina in a Rat Model of SLOS: The Effects of Dietary Cholesterol Supplementation.”" Scientific Symposium on Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (2009)
  • "“The Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome: Thinking Beyond Sterols.”" Molecular and Developmental Genetics Seminar Series, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, (2008)
  • "“Retinal Degeneration and Therapeutic Intervention in an Animal Model of a Hereditary Cholesterol Deficiency Syndrome.”" Symposium: Retinal Diseases- Mechanisms and Treatment; XVIII International Congress of Eye Research (ICER) (2008)
  • "“Retinal Degeneration in the AY9944-Induced Rat Model of Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome: Biological, Biochemical, and Biophysical Correlates.”" Symposium: Retinal Degeneration Mechanisms & Gene Therapy- I, RD2008- XIIIth International Symposium on Retinal Degeneration (2008)
  • "“The Ring Trilogy: Cholesterol, Membranes, and Disease.”" Dept. of Ophthalmology, University of Florida (2008)
  • "Retinal Degeneration and Therapeutic Intervention in an Animal Model of a Cholesterol Deficiency Syndrome." Frontiers in Vision Science Seminar Series, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute (Dept. of Ophthalmology), University of Miami, School of Medicine (2007)
  • "The Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome: It's Not Just About Cholesterol, [Grand Rounds] and “Retinal Degeneration in an Animal Model of the Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome” [Research Seminar];" Scheie Eye Institute, Department of Ophthalmology, and the F.M. Kirby Center for Molecular Ophthalmology; University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine (2007)
  • "“Retinal Degeneration and Hereditary Cholesterol Dyslipidemia: Experimental Studies.”" Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, W.K. Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan Medical School (2007)
  • "Hereditary Cholesterol Dyslipidemia and Retinal Degeneration: Experimental Studies and Therapeutic Intervention." Beckman Vision Research Center, University of California- San Francisco (UCSF) (2007)
  • "Hereditary Cholesterol Dyslipidemia and Retinal Degeneration: Experimental Studies and Therapeutic Intervention." Department of Pathology & Cell Biology, Columbia University, College of Physicians & Surgeons (2007)
  • "“The Molecular and Metabolic Basis of SLOS: Thinking Beyond Sterols.”" Conference on Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SLOS) and Inborn Errors of Cholesterol Synthesis (2007)
  • "Cholesterol Deficiency Syndromes: Thinking Beyond What's Missing,”" Department of Molecular Medicine, University of South Florida College of Medicine, (2007)
  • "Spare the Cholesterol and Spoil the Rod? Retinal Degeneration Caused by Deficient Cholesterol Biosynthesis" Gerald Fishman Lecture Series, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Illinois Chicago (2007)
  • "Cholesterol Deficiency and Retinal Degeneration: New Insights and Therapeutic Intervention.”" Department of Ophthalmology, University of Texas Health Sciences Center (UTHSC) at San Antonio (2007)
  • "Cholesterol-Associated Dyslipidemia and Retinal Degeneration: Experimental Studies." Department of Ophthalmology, Ulleval Hospital, University of Norway (2006)
  • "”Retinal Degeneration and Intervention in a Hereditary Dyslipidemia Model.”" First Congress, International Society for Ocular Cell Biology (ISOCB), Homerton College (2006)
  • "“Retinal Degeneration and Cholesterol Biosynthesis: Animal Model Studies and Therapeutic Intervention.”" XXI Annual Congress of the Brazilian Federation of the Societies for Experimental Biology (FeSBE) (2006)
  • "“The Ring Trilogy: Sterols, Membranes, and Disease.”" Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Dept. of Dermatology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA (2005)
  • "“Retinal Degeneration Associated with Defective Cholesterol Biosynthesis.”" Departments of Ophthalmology and Veterinary Medicine, Life Sciences Center, University of Missouri-Columbia (2005)
See all (35 more)

Service Activities:

  • evaluation of potential candidates worthy for being nominated for special awards, recognition, etc.; Member, JSMBS Faculty Awards Committee (Dept of Ophthalmology, primary representative) (2022–present)
  • evaluation of current Bylaws and assess need for proposed revisions; Member, JSMBS Faculty Council Bylaws Committee (2022)
  • Handle reviewer assignments in various topics under my section of the journal; Associate Editor, Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology (2022–present)
  • In 2022 alone: Biomolecules; Experimental Eye Research; Food and Chemical Toxicology; Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology; Frontiers in Neuroscience; Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences (IOVS); International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS); International Journal of Clinical Medicine; Journal of Lipid Research (JLR); Laboratory Investigation (Nature); Molecular Vision; Translational Visual Science and Technology (TVST); reviewer for multiple journals (2022–present)
  • Oversee handling of all manuscripts submitted to the journal. (This is a Springer/Nature journal); Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Eye and Vision (2021–present)
  • fundraising for eye research in WNY (Ross Eye Institute); Treasurer, Board of Directors, Western NY VisionQuest (2021–present)
  • help devise and implement guidelines for faculty and student activities during the COVID-19 pandemic; Member, UB COVID Campus Planning Committee- Faculty & Staff Subcommittee (2020)
  • as per role; At-Large Member, JSMBS Faculty Council Steering Committee (2020–2022)
  • selection of candidates for entry into the JSMBS MD/PhD Program; Member, MD/PhD Admissions Committee (2020–2022)
  • televised fundraising event (Senecas Niagara Casino, March 1, 2020); Volunteer, 58th Variety Kids Telethon- The Children's Charity of Buffalo and Western NY (2020)
  • Sheep eye dissection and lecture about ocular anatomy and eye diseases; Lecture/Demo- STEM Program, The Research Lab of Lewis J. Bennett School of Innovative Technology, Buffalo, NY (2019)
  • review and make recommendations regarding candidates for SUNY level awards/appointments; Member, SUNY Distinguished Ranks and Chancellor's Awards Selection Committee (2019–present)
  • Midterm and new candidate evaluation for awards as RCS and Senior RCS appointments; Member, Research Career Scientist (RCS) review committees (VA BLR&D) (2019–present)
  • fundraising event to support FFB Research; Volunteer, Western NY Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) "Vision Fest" (2019)
  • Lipids and Lipid Metabolism in the Eye (2010); and Lipids and Lipid-Soluble Molecules in the Eye (2020); Thematic Review Guest Editor, Journal of Lipid Research: (2019–2020)
  • evaluate candidates for UB internal awards; Member, UB Internal Awards Committee (2018–present)
  • President, ARVO Board of Trustees, and of the world's largest eye and vision research professional society; ARVO President, and Member, Executive Committee, ARVO Board of Trustees (2018–2019)
  • I oversee the receipt and review of >800 manuscripts per year submitted to this journal. The journal is the 2nd highest rated (impact factor) subspecialty journal devoted to eye and vision research in the world.; EIC for Experimental Eye Research (the official journal of the International Soc. for Eye Research (ISER)) (2018–present)
  • evaluation of grant applications (graduate/post-graduate and faculty levels); Member, Fight for Sight grant review committees (2018–present)
  • evaluate candidates for academic promotion/tenure; Member, President's Review Board (PRB) (2017–2020)
  • FFB fundraising event to support eye and vision research; Medical Co-Chair, FFB WNY Vision Walk (Buffalo, NY- May 2017 and 2018) (2017–2018)
  • National agency advisory for policies and priorities in support of eye and vision research; Member, Boar do Directors, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) (2017–2020)
  • National agency devoted to educating the public about issues relevant to ophthalmology and eye/vision research; Member, Board of Directors, Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) (2017–2020)
  • Retinal Cell Biology (RC) Section Trustee; Member, Board of Trustees, ARVO (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) (2016–2020)
  • evaluation of candidates for Ophthalmology Residency Training Program; Member, Residency Program Selection Committee (intermittent; not every year) (2015–present)
  • review applications for funding from postdoctoral trainees and faculty members pertinent to macular degeneration; Member, Macular Degeneration Subgroup, BrightFocus Foundation (2015–present)
  • scientific program reviews and grant funding reviews; Member, Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), Foundation Fighting Blindness (2015–present)
  • PPBS, Neuroscience Graduate Program; Judge, Annual graduate student research forum (2015–present)
  • FFB VisionWalk fundraising events. (annual); Team Captain, "ROSS EYE INSTITUTE ROLLERS" (subsequently "ROSS EYE INSTITUTE ILLUMINATORS" (2012–2018)
  • overview of all research protocols conducted at or under auspices of the VA Western NY Healthcare System; Member, Research and Development Committee (RDC), Buffalo VAMC (2011–present)
  • review all safety protocols for research studies performed by VA-affiliated researchers; Member/Chair, Subcommittee for Research Safety (SRS), Buffalo VAMC (2011–present)
  • Neuroscience Graduate Program; Founder and Coordinator, Pioneers in Neuroscience Lecture Series (2011–2019)
  • Along with Dept Chair, evaluate the faculty academic performance of faculty in the department; Annual Faculty Performance Evaluation (2010–present)
  • assist in preparation of UB's CTSA application; co-Direct the CTSA Pilot Studies Program; Member/Key Function Director, CTSA Steering Committee (2010–2018)
  • annual program of lectures (7-8 per year) highlighting leaders in vision research and academic ophthalmology; Founding Coordinator, Distinguished Lectures in Vision Sciences series; co-Coordinator since 2019 (2010–2019)
  • a philanthropic organization that raises funds to support services to aid visually handicapped individuals in WNY; Member, Board of Directors, Buffalo Eye Bank Foundation (2010–2014)
  • evaluate faculty being considered for academic promotion and/or tenure; Chair, Departmental Academic Promotion and Tenure Committee (2009–present)
  • programmatic reviews of the foundation activities; Member, Medical Advisory Board, RSH/Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome Foundation (2009–present)
  • faculty mentoring toward academic promotion and/or tenure; Member, Faculty Mentoring Committees (multiple departments) (2009–present)
  • intermittent, as new positions become available; Member, Faculty Search Committee; Chair (as needed) (2009–present)
  • Dept of Biochemistry, and Neuroscience Graduate Program; Member, PhD Thesis committees and qualifying exam committees (multiple) (2009–present)
  • peer reviewer; Ad hoc and Regular Member, multiple NIH and VA study sections, SEPs (2009–present)
  • I serve on these EBs: Exp Eye Res; J Lipid Res; Molec Vision; Eye and Brain; Eye and Vision; Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology,; Review and/or handle reviews of submitted manuscripts (1995–present)

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Contact Information

VA Western NY Healthcare System
Research Service- Bldg 20, Rm 202
3495 Bailey Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14215-1129
Phone: 716-862-6538
Fax: 716-862-6526