Programme

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 wil examine critical issues associated with expediting the development, accessibility and availability of treatments for retinal disorders.

For details of presenters and schedules, please visit this page in coming months. The outline of the public World Congress programme is as follows:

CONGRESS DAY 1 – Saturday 10 February

9am – 5.30pm

MORNING PROGRAMME

In recent years, medical, surgical, and technological progress in understanding and treating retinal disease has dawned a time of unprecedented optimism in the global effort to find treatments and cures. 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.

Patients with retinal disorders have some familiarity with tests of retinal structure and function and can often recall conversations around history and prognosis. 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

 

AFTERNOON PROGRAMME

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“. With each option offering 6 12 minute presentations (plus question time), we expect the broad range of topics covered and the calibre of speakers to make the choice a difficult one for patients, clinicians and students alike.

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.

Stem cell therapy has long been considered a promising mode of treatment for retinal conditions and our 2nd plenary will capture the exciting future for applying these technologies 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 4 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 whythe 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 time is fast approaching where advances in the understanding and treatment of retinal degenerative diseases will significantly reduce the emotional, social and economic burden of sight loss. Although developing standards for clinical trials in ophthalmology sets a basis for meeting adequate safety and efficacy outcomes, the evolution of medicine requires that these standards be continually reviewed and updated. The involvement of patients affected by retinal disorders in the development of agreed endpoints is well supported by researchers, clinicians and regulators. Hear about Retina International’s initiatives in defining what is globally-relevant in terms of how we measure symptom impact and functionality, how we define disability and describe adverse events, what is treatment tolerability? What improves quality of life?

 

CONGRESS DAY 2 – Sunday 11 February

9am – 4.30pm

 

MORNING PROGRAMME

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. Considering the pace of progress in understanding and treating retinal disorders, we are reluctant to speculate as to the nature of breaking news in February 2018. Don’t be surprised if compelling cases are made for including Optogenetic Therapy, AMD Therapeutic Trials, Syndromal Retinal Dystrophies, Neurone Survival Factors, Anti-oxidants and Nutritional and Dietary Supplement Interventions in Ocular Disease

According to the Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS), the intake of vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids is linked to a lower risk for age-related macular degeneration but what are the realities for patients in terms of prevention and slowing sight loss? What is the best research in the field telling us about eating a diet rich in citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold water fish? What about supplements?

Our Artificial vision plenary will feature inspiring narratives describing how researchers from the fields of ophthalmology, retina and 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.

 

AFTERNOON PROGRAMME

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 low 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?, Psychosocial Issues In Sight Loss.

Many people who have experienced sight loss describe a journey beginning with their diagnosis and feelings of anxiety and depression through their acceptance and their skill development, normally assisted by peer support and assistive technology, to a time of self-responsibility, assertiveness and confidence. It may have been the same for famed historical figures Homer? Galileo? Claude Monet? Andrea Bocelli? 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 content of particular relevance to family members, colleagues and friends of people with a sight loss.

In our 2 sessions for early career and general medical practitioners, scientists, occupational Therapists and Rehabilitation Professionals we will cover new aspects in clinical care with topics including the macroscopic and microscopic anatomy of the eye, electrophysiological tests of photoreceptor function, visual pathways, a clinical introduction to genetic eye diseases, the services and financial support available for blind and visually impaired people

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.

 

The programme for Retina International delegates will also include:

Wednesday 7 February 2018

18:00 Welcome cocktail function

Thursday 8 February

09.00 – 18.00: Retina International General Assembly

Friday  9 February

09.00 – 17:00: Retina International Continuous Education Programme
19:00 Speakers dinner

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