A generous gift from the estate of Jean Williams will support a number of cutting-edge studies into macular disease, which affects nearly 1.5 million people and is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK.

Mrs Williams, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 96, was diagnosed with inherited macular dystrophy when she was a child.

Now, it is hoped that her legacy gift to CAF will help researchers from the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford to find new treatments for macular diseases and dystrophies, through gene therapy.

There are many different forms of macular disease, but age-related macular disease (AMD) is the most common, typically affecting people aged over 50. There are also a large number of rare, inherited conditions known as macular dystrophies. These can manifest in childhood, although some are not diagnosed until later in life.

Macular disease and inherited macular dystrophy can have a devastating impact on people’s lives, leaving them unable to read, drive and recognise faces.

CAF Charitable Legacies University of Oxford case study
Jean Williams (right) and Jan Winstanley

The Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences specialises in retinal diseases, of which macular disease and macular degeneration form a significant proportion.

Thanks to Mrs Williams’ generous legacy, researchers will now undertake a range of pioneering studies into macular disease.

One of the studies will explore unsolved cases of inherited macular dystrophy, with researchers using next-generation DNA sequencing data to identify the genes and variants responsible and establish any inheritance patterns.

Susan Downes, Professor of Ophthalmology and Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Oxford, says: “We are so grateful for the Jean Williams donation. This will have such a huge impact on our ability to carry out research into the causes and treatments for inherited macular disease.”

Her cousin and executrix Jan Winstanley, says: “Blindness doesn’t affect just one person, it affects the whole family. The Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences is doing astonishing things in the field, so I am excited to see what happens in the next few years. My mother, grandmother, and great grandmother were also affected by the disease and while unfortunately this groundbreaking research couldn’t help my family, it could help millions of people.”

Monica Brown, Head of Charity Advisory and Programmes at CAF, says: “Eyesight is precious, but it’s something that we can take for granted. Jean and her family have had a long history with macular disease, which makes this gift all the more meaningful. We hope that Jean would be very happy with her legacy and that her gift benefits many generations to come.” 


If you would like more information or to discuss leaving a CAF Charitable Legacy, please contact our Legacy team on 03000 123 108 or email us.  

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