Download a programme overview here

Through a fast-moving programme of short scientific presentations, expert panels, treatment approach plenaries, practical guidance presentations and social events, Retina 2018 New Zealand will present the most up-to-date knowledge in fields such as scientific and clinical research, treatment advocacy and access, rehabilitation best practice, blindness-specific technologies and  peer support.

The congress will include insight into retinal research in areas such as genes and gene therapy, cell therapy and regenerative medicine, retina implant technology, novel drug therapy and epidemiology. The congress will examine critical issues associated with expediting the development, accessibility and availability of treatments for retinal disorders.

The outline of the public World Congress programme is as follows:

CONGRESS DAY 1 – Saturday 10 February
9am – 5.30pm


Following a traditional Maori welcome and opening speeches from dignitaries and the Local organising committee, our opening plenary will touch on many new and emerging technologies in development that have the potential to slow or stop disease progression and potentially reverse sight loss. A recent global review identified 29 relevant technologies including 9 gene therapeutic approaches, 10 medical devices, 5 pharmacological agents and 5 regenerative and cell therapies. A further 11 technologies were identified in very early phases of development. The session will update delegates on what we know about efficacy, applicability, acceptability and the prospects for adoption into clinical practice.

Increasingly, the importance of genetic testing to determine the correct diagnosis will be part of clinical management. Our next morning plenary will highlight the increasing sophistication and efficiency of genetic testing. 5 20 minute presentations will examine the most important contemporary issues through lecture and Q&A sessions in subject areas such as Genetics In Retinal Disorders, New Mutations and Genetic Identification Methods, Genes And Patient Management – Is Genetic Testing Relevant?, Genetic Screening For Patients With IRD’s In New Zealand, Genetics and Gene Therapy.

Comprehensive next-generation genetic sequencing of all retinal dystrophy genes is changing the paradigm for how retinal specialists perform genetic testing for inherited retinal degenerations. In the era of human clinical trials, identifying specific genetic defects will be of increasing utility in recruiting patients for clinical studies.

In the past 15 years, research in the field of retinal gene therapy has exploded. The first treatments have been approved for inherited retinal dystrophies and other clinical trials involving retinal gene therapy are creating real hope for future therapies. The congress will feature the latest developments from clinical trials in RP, Stargardt disease, Leber congenital amaurosis, achromatopsia, X-linked retinoschisis, Usher syndrome and choroideremia.


The Blind Foundation’s  free lunchtime seminar  ‘Beyond vision loss: international perspectives on vision rehabilitation policy’ features speakers discussing how vision rehabilitation policy works internationally. For further information contact Dianne Rogers at


Following lunch our 1st parallel session will offer delegates a choice between “Clinical Aspects of Retinal Degenerations” and “Clinical Aspects Of AMD And Other Maculopathies“.

Clinical Aspects of Retinal Degenerations will feature accounts of the latest thinking and future developments through presentation titles such as Prevalence and inheritance, Imaging in Diagnosis, Natural History Studies, Paediatric low vision, Optimising Vision and Surgery in Inherited Retinal Disorders.

The Clinical Aspects of AMD and Other Maculopathies session will feature presentation titles such as Advances in AMD – Clinical Understanding of Progression, AMD in New Zealand – Statistics and Advocacy to Optimise Treatment Options, Patient Registries and Big Data – evolving treatment regimens, Driving and Dark Adaptation in AMD, AMD Variants / Other Maculopathies and Treatment options.

Our 2nd plenary will capture the exciting future for applying stem cell therapy to treating retinal disorders. Using accessible language, this session will background the research and answer the important questions. How does stem cell therapy generate cells that are lost in retinal disease in order to restore lost function? What are induced pluripotent stem cells and why have they revolutionized the field? Why is cellular programming and reprogramming technology especially useful in understanding retinal diseases? What are the scientific, ethical and political challenges in the use of stem cells?

Featuring 3 20 minute sessions, titles will include stem Cell Trials, Stem Cells as Models of Disease, Cell therapies and Restoration of Vision and CRISPR Gene Editing Technology.

Likely to be one of the biggest science stories of the next decade, you will hear about why this powerful and cost-effective new gene-editing technology known as CRISPR makes it much easier for researchers to figure out the biological effect of a gene. The prospects for developing therapies that use this revolutionary “gene surgery” technique   to treat inherited diseases will be discussed.

Day 1 of congress will conclude with a Topical Issues plenary that seeks to, from a broad range of audience viewpoints, put the days advances in the laboratory and the clinic into perspective. With an emphasis on question and answer opportunities, session titles will include From Diagnosis to Therapy – the Journey From Disease Onset to Effective Patient Management, Treatment Development to Implementation – Why is it Taking so Long? And Developing Patient Relevant Outcomes in Clinical Trials.


The Conference Dinner will take place from 6:30pm at the Pullman Hotel.
Dress code: Smart Casual.

CONGRESS DAY 2 – Sunday 11 February
9am – 4.30pm


Our Scientific Breaking News plenary opens day 2 of the congress. The session will feature 5 20 minute presentations that will again offer question and answer time opportunities for delegates wishing to clarify personally-relevant aspects of each presentation.

Our Artificial vision plenary will feature inspiring narratives describing how researchers from the fields of ophthalmology, vision science, biophysics, neuroscience, neurosurgery, engineering and material sciences have come together with a shared goal – restoring vision in the blind using implants for electric or optic stimulation of the visual system.

The challenge of developing a stable, long-term, useful prosthesis has attracted around 20 research groups across the globe. While visual function outcomes have been limited to high-contrast object recognition, localisation, large character recognition and basic navigation thus far, the future for retinal prosthesis devices holds promise. Our plenary will include sessions covering Bionic Vision Australia and the Suprachoroidal Retinal Prosthesis Implant, The Patients Story, Artificial Vision – a global Overview and Argus – The Surgical Procedure and Clinical Journey.


Quantum RLV Presentation at 1:15pm – 1:45pm presented by Rob Drummond:

Intelligent Cameras in Wearable Technology: Taking a look at the difference wearable technology, using artificial intelligence (AI) through smart cameras, can make to those with vision loss; exploring and comparing the options currently available in the vision rehabilitation space. Featuring a demonstration of OrCam MyEye.

The presentation is open to all registered delegates.


Collectively, our 4 Sunday afternoon parallel sessions constitute comprehensive practical guidance regardless of where delegates are in their careers or stages in coping with a sight loss. For Patients and their families, clinicians and rehabilitation professionals, scientists and students alike, the quality of our faculty will ensure a learning and motivational experience of high value.

For people with low vision seeking to retain independence , there are now a plethora of tools, techniques and resources available to them but what will work for who? Patient session 1 will deal with topics such as making the most of remaining vision, the vision rehabilitation professionals and their roles and answer questions such as what is a low vision evaluation. What optical aids and low vision devices are available and how can they help? Do digital devices and apps represent a portable, lower-cost alternative to traditional vision aids? The session will also feature experienced adaptive technology specialists providing an overview of how to select cost-effective technology for a desired level of functionality, an overview of matching capability and motivation level to methods for interacting with technology and a commentary on the capabilities of digital technology in enhancing independence. Presentation titles will include Low Vision Rehabilitation – Enhancing Visual Function, How Will I Read, How Will I Write, How Will I Communicate?, Advanced And Future Technologies In Blindness And Low Vision – What Do We Want And Why?

In Patient Session 2 titled “Independence, Self-Determination – Are the Barriers Real? high-achieving Kiwis will relate their stories of success and how they have overcome barriers to realise their potential. The session will also include insights into travelling as a sight-impaired person and content of particular relevance to family members, colleagues and friends of people with a sight loss.

In our session for early career and general medical practitioners, scientists and Rehabilitation Professionals we will cover new aspects in clinical care with topics including Syndromic Retinal Degenerations, surgery in Artificial Vision, Diabetic Eye Sisease, Stem Cells and advances in drug delivery to the retina.

Our closing Plenary “Where are we at and what Does the Future Hold?” will concisely review global efforts by mode of treatment. Referencing stages of disease, the session will provide 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 information on the preceding programme for Retina International delegates only click here.

For anyone staying on in Auckland after the Public Congress, Exclusive Tours have specifically designed 2 tour options for Monday 12 February. For more information and bookings, visit the tours page here.

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