Speakers

Jean Bennett

 

Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, the F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics (CAROT) at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She has developed gene transfer approaches to test treatment strategies for retinal degenerative and ocular neovascular diseases, to elucidate retinal differentiation pathways and to identify pathogenetic mechanisms that lead to blindness.  Her research with Dr. Albert Maguire, conducted at UPenn over the past 25 years, has established the scientific underpinnings which made it possible to test the first potential definitive retinal gene therapy treatment for patients with blinding retinal degenerations. Dr. Bennett’s Center continues to work hard to develop treatments that could be applied to other genetic and acquired blinding conditions.

 

Gerald Chader

Dr. Chader began his research career as an Andelot Fellow in the Dept. of Biological Chemistry at Harvard Medical School. He is now affiliated with the Department of Ophthalmology and Roski Eye Institute of the Keck School of Medicine at USC.

Academically, Dr. Chader specializes in vision research, focusing on the neural retina. His goal is to find practicable ways to bring preventions, treatments and cures to patients with untreated or poorly treated eye diseases such as the inherited retinal degenerations. At USC, he has worked with the team that has recently brought an electronic retinal implant (Artificial Vision) to approval for implantation in patients with inherited retinal degenerative diseases. He has served as Executive Director of the California Project to Cure Blindness, a consortium of investigators now testing the use of stem cells in treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration and other retinal degenerations in a clinical trial.

 

Thomas Edwards, Ph.D.

Tom EdwardsTom Edwards is a vitreoretinal surgeon with an interest in inherited retinal degenerations. He undertook a PhD at the University of Cambridge (UK) before completing his ophthalmology training at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH). He has recently returned from a fellowship under Prof Robert MacLaren in the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford (UK). He is involved in a number of ongoing research projects, including retinal gene therapy and the use of an electronic retinal implant for partial restoration of vision in advanced retinitis pigmentosa. He is now based at the RVEEH and the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) in Melbourne, Australia.

 

Professor Mark Gillies

Professor Mark GilliesProfessor Mark Gillies is a clinician-scientist who is Director of Research, Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney. The Macula Research Group’s (MRG) Clinical Research Unit has conducted several major investigator-initiated randomized clinical trials, including the first to demonstrate the efficacy of intraocular steroid injections for any ophthalmic disease. The MRG’s Observational Studies Unit has developed internet-based software to track the outcomes of treatment of macular disease. The main interests of the MRG’s laboratory include the relationships between retinal glia and neurons in retinal disease with particular interest in outer retinal metabolism. Mark was a founder member and for many years the Chair of the Scientific Executive Committee of the MacTel Project.

 

Elise Heon

Dr. Héon is a Clinician-Scientist in the field of Ocular Genetics, Director of the Eye Genetics Program and Senior Associate Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in the program of Genetics and Genomics Biology. Her laboratory, supported by peer-reviewed grants, is involved in the genetic analysis of inherited eye disorders such retinal dystrophies most specifically.

Her clinical work focuses on the management of hereditary eye diseases, which include hereditary cancer (retinoblastoma) and other non-cancerous blinding conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa. Dr. Héon’s role as Director of the Ocular Genetics program is to ensure that patients are provided with state of the art global care. This program is unique in Canada and part of only a few in the world. Through her research Dr. Heon works to better understand disease characteristics and mechanisms with the goal of improving outcome and quality of life of patients.

 

Alex Hewitt

Associate Professor Alex Hewitt is a Principal Research Fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the School of Medicine at the University of Tasmania, as well as a Principal Investigator at the Centre for Eye Research Australia. He is supported by a NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship and his major research interest lie in the ophthalmic applications of stem cell and gene-editing technology. Alex obtained his PhD investigating the molecular and phenotypic associations for glaucoma from Flinders University of South Australia in 2009, and completed formal Ophthalmology training at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital two years later. After undertaking a fellowship in inherited eye diseases at the Lions Eye Institute in Perth, Alex returned to Melbourne and with A/Prof Alice Pébay commenced the large-scale banking of cell lines from patients with and without a variety of eye diseases. Together they have established a laboratory for automated processing of induced pluripotent stem cells. In 2014, Alex expanded his laboratory to Hobart, where his team have been applying CRISPR/Cas-gene editing technology to better understand and treat inherited eye diseases.

 

Jonathan Mosen

Jonathan Mosen is a broadcaster, advocate, information technology consultant, and IT product designer. Blind from birth, he has a BA in History and Political Studies from the University of Auckland, and a Master’s in Public Policy from the Victoria University of Wellington. He has stood for Parliament twice, and managed a successful Government relations programme for the Foundation for the Blind, achieving significant legislative change. He has served as the Chairman of the Blind Foundation, as well as President of the advocacy organisation, Blind Citizens New Zealand.

Jonathan has held senior management roles in two of the largest multinational IT companies serving blind people and those with low vision, designing a range of innovative products. He now operates his own consultancy company, through which he publishes eBooks and audiobooks, consults on advocacy strategies, and advises companies on accessibility issues. He is sought worldwide to offer commentary on assistive technology and its impact on disabled people, and beta tests a wide range of software for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS. He continues to host his popular weekly Internet radio show, The Mosen Explosion.

 

Associate Professor Alice Pebay

Associate Professor Pébay obtained her PhD in Neurosciences from the University of Paris VI in 2001 and subsequently joined Professor Martin Pera at Monash University to undertake research on human pluripotent stem cells. She then continued her research in this area at the University of Melbourne where she commenced in 2007. Since 2012, Alice has been appointed to both the Centre for Eye Research Australia and The University of Melbourne. There she is the head of the Neuroregeneration Research Unit, which aims to use patient specific stem cells to model blinding diseases. Alice was awarded a NHMRC Career development Fellowship in 2012 and subsequently an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship in 2014. Alice is the primary inventor of three granted international patents related to stem cell technology and neurotrauma.

 

Eric A. Pierce, M.D., Ph.D.

Eric A. Pierce, M.D., Ph.D. is the Solman and Libe Friedman Professor of Ophthalmology, Director of the Ocular Genomics Institute, Director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations, and Director of the Inherited Retinal Disorders Service in the Department of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Pierce received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.  He did his residency in Ophthalmology at Harvard and fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital, Boston where he also took his first faculty position.  He was then recruited to the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.  He returned to Harvard in 2011 to establish the Ocular Genomics Institute.  He became Director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory and Inherited Retinal Disorders Service in 2014.  His research program is focused on understanding the molecular bases of inherited retinal degenerations, and developing gene and genetic therapies for these conditions.  He and his colleagues are also doing several clinical trials of gene and stem cell therapies for inherited retinal disorders.

 

Eberhart Zrenner

Dr. Zrenner is Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology at the Institute for Ophthalmic Research at the Centre for Ophthalmology of the University of Tuebingen, Germany. His research interests include: retinal physiology and pathophysiology, neuro-ophthalmology and neurodegeneration.  Professor Zrenner’s international multicenter clinical trials using electronic retinal implants have included 29 study patients to date.

 

Andrea Vincent

Associate Professor Andrea Vincent is an Ophthalmologist Clinician-Scientist, with overseas fellowship training in Ocular Genetics, to become the only Molecular Ophthalmologist in New Zealand, and Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, New Zealand National Eye centre, University of Auckland. She sees paediatric and adult patients, both in public at Greenlane Clinical Centre, Auckland, and in private practice at Retina Specialists. She has established an Ocular Genetic Research facility in the department which undertakes research projects into the genetics of inherited eye diseases including the inherited retinal dystrophies. A database for Inherited Retinal diseases has over 650 participants. Ongoing research collaborations nationally and internationally aim to characterise novel mutations by modelling retinal disease in zebrafish, and to elucidate the outstanding mutations in this cohort. A/Prof Vincent has 60 research publications and 2 book chapters, is an examiner for RANZCO, on the board of the ORIA, a section editor for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, and on the editorial board of Ophthalmic Genetics, and Orphanet Journal of Rare diseases.

 

Matthew Rudland

Matthew Rudland is an Adaptive Technology Trainer with the Blind Foundation in New Zealand. His role includes working with blind and low vision people in work, study or at home; to find the best adaptive technology solutions to independently use computers, smart phones, tablets, OCR devices, as well as learn Braille and Braille devices.

Coming from a background in education and IT, Matthew has had a passion for technology since his first Commodore Vic 20 computer in the eighties.  With qualifications in computing and teaching, Matthew also holds current certifications in Braille, Jaws, NVDA and ZoomText.

 

David Heaney

David Heaney is an Auckland lawyer.  He qualified from Auckland University with both a commerce and law degree and has been in practice as a civil litigator since 1976.  He was first diagnosed with Stargardt’s Maculopathy in the late 1970s and his eyesight deteriorated through the early 1980s.  David has not been able to read normally since then but has nevertheless progressed with his career as a lawyer and rising to be the senior partner in one of New Zealand’s most successful litigation firms.  He has had a successful career as a court lawyer and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2008.  He continues to practice now as a barrister sole and is an example of how determination can overcome substantial sight loss when it comes to career development.

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