Remarks from John E. Dowling, Program Chair

2018 marks the end of the 10-year collaboration between the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation and the International Retinal Research Foundation called the Innovation in Vision Science Initiative, that I had the privilege of chairing.  The aim of the Initiative was to accelerate the understanding and treatments of diseases of the visual system. We conducted four studies--Astrocytes and Glaucomatous Neurodegeneration; Diabetic Retinopathy: Where We Are and a Path Forward; Restoring Vision to the Blind; and Amblyopia: Challenges and Opportunities. Reports describing each of these studies have been published as stand-alone documents and in various journals. In addition, we held a second meeting on glaucoma to assess the state of the field five years after our initial report. The reports are available online and a listing of how to access any of the reports online or in journals can be found below.

We concluded and celebrated the Initiative by holding two special interest group sessions at the Annual Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology meeting held in Honolulu, Hawaii on April 30 and May 1, 2018. Key representatives from the various studies discussed how their fields have progressed since their Initiative finished its work; what hurdles have been overcome and what are the major questions confronting each field. 

From top left clockwise: Eberhart Zrenner presenting "Prostheses: Retinal to Cortical 9"; Lynne Kiorpes presenting "Cortical Correlates of Amblyopia"; David Calkins presenting "The Axon and New Therapies".

In closing, I would like to thank not only the panel members who participated in the special interest groups this year but also everyone who contributed to the Initiative. We estimate that over 300 individuals attended at least one of the 20 meetings held over the 10 years, and many participated in three or more meetings. Those involved were exceptionally enthusiastic and most willing to contribute, making the Initiative an enormous pleasure to chair. Special thanks go to Karen Wright, the Program Administrator for the Initiative, and Sandy Blackwood, the Executive Director of the IRRF, as well as the staffs of the National Academy of Sciences’ J. Erik Jonsson Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where workshops were held for all the studies, and the Janelia Research Center of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute  where the plenary sessions were held.

Most importantly, the Initiative could never have happened were it not for the vision and generous financial support of the International Retinal Research Foundation and the enthusiasm of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation to undertake this remarkable and productive collaboration. We are all very grateful.

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