On March 21, Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) and more than 30 other organizations (see full list at the end of article) convened in Washington DC for "Vision Research Funding Partnership V: The Eye in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)." This high-level meeting, now in its fifth consecutive year, brought together leaders of organizations that fund vision research to think collectively about how to best support scientific research related to eye health and maximize the impact of private funding in this area.
The event was hosted by RPB and co-sponsored by the Glaucoma Research Foundation, E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind, EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, International Retinal Research Foundation, Lighthouse Guild, and Richman Associates, LLC (in-kind).
A goal of the meeting is to create a community of vision research funders that can collaborate when appropriate, thereby increasing the impact that any one organization can have on its own. A session at this year’s meeting focused on collaborations from organizations that have worked together over the past year, leading to successful projects that have the potential to impact the field of vision research, and ultimately increase treatments, preventives and cures for vision loss and eye diseases.
In addition to updates on collaborations, participants heard:
expert perspectives on the outlook for federal research funding from James Jorkasky, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research /Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, and Emily Holubowich, Senior Vice President of CRD Associates;
updates from the National Eye Institute (NEI) on current and future activities from NEI Director Paul Sieving, MD, PhD; and
an update from Jeff Todd, JD, CEO & President of Prevent Blindness, on work undertaken to activate last year’s landmark report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which promotes a population health approach to vision.
The event’s plenary session on “Artificial Intelligence and Vision Research” featured two speakers: Oregon Health & Science University’s Michael F. Chiang, MD, Knowles Professor, Departments of Ophthalmology & Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology; Vice-Chair (Research), Department of Ophthalmology, and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ Michael Abramoff, MD, PhD, The Robert C. Watzke, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering. The speakers delved into the topic of AI from multiple angles, exploring both its impact on and potential for use in vision research, as well as its impact on clinical ophthalmology.
The plenary session was followed by a panel discussion titled, “A Treasure Trove of Eye Data,” which explored critical sources of big data that could be ultilized for vision research. Panelists included:
IRIS Registry, William Rich, MD, Medical Director of Health Policy, American Academy of Ophthalmology
Million Veteran Program (MVP), Jennifer Moser, PhD, Senior Program Manager, US Department of Veterans Affairs
Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (DRCRnet), Jennifer Sun, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School; Chair, Diabetic Initiatives, DRCRnet
eyeGENE, Santa Tumminia, PhD, Associate Director for Strategic Science Initiatives & Programs, Office of the Director, National Eye Institute
Toward the end of the day, meeting participants turned their attention to a new task: developing common messages in support of the vision research field. Following up on a presentation at last year’s event, in which Marian Salzman, CEO of North America and Chairman of the Global Collective at Havas PR, gave a dynamic presentation on the power of messaging, participants at the 2018 meeting were inspired to engage in a participatory workshop called “Making Vision Research a Priority: Crafting Our Message.”
The workshop was led by Courtney Myers, Senior Vice President of Havas PR. Participants worked to identify and prioritize audiences that the organizations in the room could collectively reach to spread the word about the importance of vision research. They also began to think through key messages for each of these audiences that conveyed the idea that vision research is a worthwhile investment.
Research to Prevent Blindness thanks the following organizations for participating in the event and contributing to its success:
Alliance for Eye and Vision Research / National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Macular Degeneration Foundation
Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation
Department of Defense / Vision Research Program
Discovery Center for Cornea and Retina at UC Irvine / Macular Degeneration Partnership
Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network
Eyesight Foundation of Alabama
Fight for Sight
Foundation Fighting Blindness
Glaucoma Research Foundation
Havas PR North America
International Retinal Research Foundation
Knights Templar Eye Foundation
Lions Club International Foundation
Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium
Macula Vision Research Foundation
National Eye Institute
National Eye Institute / National Eye Health Education Program
Oregon Health & Science University
Research to Prevent Blindness
Richman Associates, LLC
That Man May See
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs