For the second year in a row, the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ national conference — this year titled VISIONS 2016 — will take place in FFB’s founding city of Baltimore, Maryland, June 30-July 3. More than 500 people are expected to attend the event, which will offer dozens of research- and lifestyle-focused sessions designed for people who are visually impaired and sighted as well.
While online registration for the conference has closed, walk-ins are welcome. And for those unable to attend, you can check out comprehensive social-media coverage, including posts on this blog. The hashtags for the conference are #VISIONS2016 and #MyVISIONS2016.
For many, the conference will also be a celebration. Seeing as a handful of founding families established the Foundation in 1971, this year marks FFB’s 45th anniversary. Originally, the families were focused on the one disease affecting their loved ones — retinitis pigmentosa (RP). But after they began funding the first generation of retinal researchers, more than 250 genes causing retinal diseases were eventually identified, widening the scope of their mission to include, among others, Stargardt disease, Usher syndrome, Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) and age-related macular degeneration.
In all, more than 10 million Americans are affected by these retinal diseases and tens of millions more worldwide.
But today, thanks to FFB’s work, roughly 20 treatments for retinal diseases are either in or being prepared for clinical trials, the penultimate step in a development process that ends with a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Argus II, or “bionic retina,” which received early funding from FFB, won FDA approval in 2013, and a gene therapy targeting RP and LCA achieved great success in clinical trials, which wrapped up late last year. If approved by the FDA, the treatment — funded by FFB in the pre-clinical and early clinical-trial stages — will be the first gene therapy of any kind approved in the United States.
But FFB has much more work to do. Until every retinal disease it targets is treated and, eventually, cured, the research continues. VISIONS 2016 will share the latest research advances while also enabling attendees to network, learn best practices for navigating visual impairment and have some fun. If you’re able, please join us in Baltimore. If not, follow us on social media and be part of the discussion.
Pictured, top: Baltimore’s Inner Harbor