| 23 January 2018

Leading researchers in global fight against blindness to attend Global Conference at University of Auckland

Global leaders in the fight against blindness will converge in Auckland on February 10th and 11th to present ground breaking developments to patients, scientists and clinicians. The Retina International World Congress (RIWC) takes place every two years and this year will be hosted by Retina New Zealand at the University of Auckland.

Speakers from the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia will join New Zealand’s leaders to present on gene therapy, gene editing, cell therapy and artificial vision all of which provide real hope to those affected by conditions of the retina that lead to blindness. Dr Jean Bennet, from the University of Pennsylvania who was Principle Investigator on the first approved gene therapy for a condition causing blindness will be the key note speaker along with Dr Eric Pierse of Massachusetts Eye Institute and Prof Elise Heon of Sick Kids Toronto.

People living with sight loss and their families in New Zealand will be joined by peers from all continents will learn about the most up-to-date knowledge in scientific and clinical research, treatment. Importantly they will work together to develop global advocacy initiatives as well as discussing new opportunities in rehabilitation best practice, blindness-specific technologies and peer support.

The congress will examine critical issues associated with expediting the development, accessibility and availability of treatments for retinal disorders such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy and Stargardt disease. 

The scientific and medical programme will include insight into retinal research in genes and gene therapy, cell therapy and regenerative medicine, retina implant technology, novel drug therapy and robotic surgery.

Retina International celebrate Its 40th anniversary in 2018, and in this time it has brought stakeholders in the area of retina research together to accelerate the path to treatment. On the year of its 40th anniversary members of Retina International, including Retina New Zealand, celebrate the first gene therapy for a form of inherited blindness that primarily affects children. This represents a watershed moment and huge hope for the future as the community is hopeful that more therapies will emerge from research often initiated and funded by patients.

Bringing patients and their families as well clinicians and rehabilitation professionals, scientists and students together is critically important and represents a high value opportunity.

For people with low vision seeking to retain independence, there are now a plethora of tools and techniques. But what will work for whom? The congress will deal with making the most of remaining vision. Adaptive technology specialists will answer common questions for patients “How Will I Read, How Will I Write, How Will I Communicate?”

The congress is asking high-achieving sight-impaired and blind people about their experiences in “Independence, Self-Determination – Are the Barriers Real?

World-leading researchers will focus on addressing where we are at and what the Future Holds. There will be commentary on the multiple avenues of intervention, including correcting the underlying defect, regenerating damaged retinal cells, preventing further retinal deterioration and providing artificial methods of sensing light.

For more information log onto http://retina2018newzealand.com/

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