Foundation Fighting Blindness and Casey Eye Institute Co-Host a Gene and Stem-Cell Therapy Summit

Seattle summit will report on latest methods in gene and stem-cell therapies being developed to treat and cure blindness caused by retinal diseases.

(Columbia, MD) - The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a national nonprofit focused on funding cutting-edge retinal research, and the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University will co-host “Innovation Summit: Retinal Cell and Gene Therapy” at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel in Seattle, Washington, April 28-29, 2016.

The summit, which will take place just prior to ARVO 2016—the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology— will include presentations by retinal-research experts on evolving gene and stem-cell therapies targeting retinal diseases as well as surgical techniques for delivering them to patients. It begins at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 28, and runs through 4 p.m., April 29.

“The Casey Eye Institute started this summit three years ago, and about a 50 people attended,” recalls Patricia Zilliox, Ph.D., chief drug development officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. “The next year, there were 100 people, the year after that 150. It really shows how much the fields of gene and stem-cell therapy have grown. Some of the research reported at this summit may well chart the course for the future of treatments for retinal diseases.”

Gene therapy, in particular, has shown good promise in the battle to treat retinal diseases. The Foundation was instrumental in funding the pre-clinical and early clinical work that resulted in a gene therapy targeting retinal diseases caused by mutations in the RPE65 gene. This therapy partly restored vision in 100 patients in clinical trials worldwide and is expected to be submitted to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for approval. If approved, it would be the first gene therapy approved by the FDA.

The summit, featuring many of the country’s top retinal experts, will cover numerous gene and stem-cell therapies targeting multiple vision-robbing diseases. It will be divided into three sessions—“Gene Therapy,” Stem Cell Therapy” and “Technological Innovations in Subretinal Surgery.”

“A session on subretinal surgery was added this year in response to discussion within the industry about safety and efficacy of the conventional gene-delivery systems, those injected beneath the retina,” Dr. Zilliox explains. “This is a very important topic, mostly because it’s relevant to the safety of patients.”  

Those who have questions about and/or wish to attend “Innovation Summit: Retinal Cell and Gene Therapy” can contact Corrie Simkin-Brocato at 410-423-0579 or You can also register online at

FOR RELEASE: April 21, 2016
Contact: Rhea Farberman
410 423-0635/
Original Date: 
Thursday, April 21, 2016