About us

The Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK) Eye Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded in March 2022 by Juliette Vila Sinclair Spence. Recognizing the lack of information on AK for both patients and the medical community, Juliette became an AK Patient Advocate to give voice to patients like herself. Her efforts have since evolved into the first worldwide foundation that focuses solely on AK.

OUR MISSION

Acanthamoeba Keratitis is a rare disease of immense pain and suffering. Misdiagnosis is common, prevention is possible, and support makes all the difference. Our mission is to be a fierce advocate for AK warriors around the world.

OUR GOALS

Prevent AK
Educate contact lens users, who are at a much higher risk of contracting AK, on how to prevent AK.

    Improve AK Diagnosis
    Raise awareness within the medical community on best practices to quickly and accurately diagnose AK.

      Support for Patients Suffering From AK
      Provide support and resources for patients, their families, and friends.

        OUR TEAM

        Board of Directors

        Juliette Vila Sinclair Spence

        CEO, Founder & Patient Advocate
        AK Warrior, Patient Advocate, and Founder & Chairwoman of the Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK) Eye Foundation. In 2017, Juliette was diagnosed with AK and underwent an emergency corneal transplant to save her eye. Her personal experience has granted her valuable insight into the challenges and recovery process following the disease. With a multicultural background and skills in project management and marketing communication, Juliette is passionate about making a difference and leads the foundation in increasing awareness and providing support to those affected by this rare eye disease.

        Marco Schraven

        Treasurer
        A board member, treasurer of the AK Eye Foundation, committed to managing the Foundation's financial affairs with care and transparency. With more than 30-year financial industry background, he plays a crucial role in ensuring efficient utilization of the Foundation's resources. Marco has seen the impact of AK on his partner Juliette and their family. This motivates him to be dedicated to the Foundation.

        Sabine Widmer

        Secretary & Ambassador for Switzerland
        A board member and Ambassador for Switzerland for the Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK) Eye Foundation. She has been dealing with AK since May 2020. Despite undergoing four surgeries, multiple therapies, and over 36,000 eye drops in both eyes, she is still fighting to keep her severely damaged eye and regain some vision. As a Swiss teacher, she remains determined and resilient. Sabine's experience has given her a unique perspective and deep empathy for those struggling with AK, and she has made it her mission to raise awareness about the disease and support those going through the same journey.

        Medical Advisory Board

        John KG Dart, MA, DM, FRCOphth

        Professor John Dart from UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who serves on the AKEF Medical Advisory Board. As a clinical scientist, he is recognized for his collaborative work with other researchers in the laboratory. His research focuses on corneal infections, inflammatory diseases of the ocular surface, and translating these discoveries into clinical trials, with a specialization in Acanthamoeba Keratitis, Pemphigoid, and clinical trials.

        Taher Eleiwa, MBBS, PhD

        Dr. Eleiwa earned his medical and surgical degrees at Benha University in Egypt, where he also served as faculty for over a decade. He earned his PhD in Cornea and External Eye diseases at the world-renowned Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in the USA. He currently practices as a corneal refractive and cataract surgeon at Magrabi Hospital in Saudi Arabia. Dr. Eleiwa specializes in severe corneal infections, corneal transplantation, and advanced anterior segment disease.

        Andrew D. Pucker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FSLS, FBCLA

        Dr. Pucker is the Executive Director of Clinical and Medical Sciences at Lexitas Pharma Services. He earned his OD, MS, and PhD degrees from The Ohio State University. His independent research and clinical career has focused on dry eye disease, contact lenses, and myopia development. He has authored over 50 peer-reviewed publications and over 160 editor reviewed columns. Dr. Pucker is a Fellow and Diplomate of the American Academy of Optometry, Fellow of the Scleral Lens Education Society, and Fellow of the British Contact Lens Association

        Zachary Reynard, OD, FAAO

        Dr. Reynard graduated cum laude from the prestigious advanced scholars’ program at the Salus Pennsylvania College of Optometry. He went on to complete a residency in Cornea and Contact Lenses and a fellowship in Dry Eye Disease at the UAB School of Optometry. He has acted as a sub-investigator in multiple dry eye and contact lens clinical trials, and serves as medical editor for the digital publication EyeMedsNow. Dr. Reynard has treated thousands of patients with contact lens complications, including severe infections and corneal transplants.

        Ambassadors

        Alvise Callegari

        Ambassador for Italy
        Alvise is the Ambassador for Italy and coordinator of the Italian support group, he contracted AK in July 2015 by rinsing his contact lens container with tap water. He was followed by the Corneal Disease Center of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan and after over 11 months of tough struggle he returned to his job as a rafting guide in Italy and bike tour leader trips all around Europe.

        Ian West

        Ambassador for United Kingdom
        Ian is the Ambassador for United Kingdom, AK Warrior, chartered engineer and freelance archaeologist residing in Shropshire, England. After contracting AK in 2016 from contaminated water in his contact lenses, he received prompt and effective treatment, resulting in a full recovery. Ever since, he has actively campaigned to increase awareness of the disease and enhance diagnosis and treatment. To further these efforts, he established the AK Community Fund in collaboration with UK Charity Fight for Sight, dedicated to raising funds for these important causes.