I am excited to be reporting to you live from Seattle where about 10,000 of the world’s top eye researchers are convening for the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). While researchers from many different ophthalmic fields are present at ARVO, it is the world’s largest gathering of retinal scientists.
Armed with caffeine and an assortment of state-of-the art information processing technologies — I use a remarkable device known as the fountain pen — the science staff of the Foundation Fighting Blindness is learning the latest news from the retinal research front. For us, it is a five-day information-gathering marathon, as we absorb information from hundreds of posters, which describe research project results, attend dozens of presentations and meet with many investigators who we don’t often have a chance to see.
I am pleased to report that 145 posters and presentations at ARVO are for research funded by the Foundation. In my estimation, that represents about 60 percent of all the ARVO posters and presentations on inherited retinal diseases. That’s strong evidence for not only our strong presence at ARVO, but also our leadership role in driving retinal research around the world.
This year’s ARVO theme is “Life-Changing Research.” For the Foundation, that is — and always will be — our mantra. Every research project that we fund, every partnership we establish and every collaboration we facilitate is based on our commitment to advancing life-changing research. In the world of fighting blindness, that means research to save and restore vision in people.
When I walk up to a poster at ARVO to learn about a new misfolded protein that causes retinal degeneration in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa, my questions to the researcher are: “How is this advancing our knowledge of disease in humans? Does your finding provide us with clues about how to save vision in people?” We are all about treatments and cures for people, and I am sure we’ll have interesting news from ARVO on human studies as well.
Stay tuned to Eye on the Cure as we report throughout the week on some of our exciting findings from the conference.
And just so you know, I also rely heavily on my Blackberry and laptop during these conferences. I am not a happy camper unless I am well-connected. But there’s still nothing like the feeling of putting ink to paper when I learn something new.
Pictured above: ARVO 2013 attendees discuss some of the research findings on display.