Achievement Award Lectures

Proctor Medal Lecture
Monday, May 6
11:30am - 12:15pm PT

Emily Y. Chew, MD, FARVO 
The epidemic of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Therapeutic strategies towards prevention

2024 Proctor Award recipient: Emily Chew

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in high-income countries, is estimated to affect 288 million people by 2040. The resources required to care for this daunting number will be enormous. The current research is focused on the treatment of the late AMD, varying from gene therapy to more intravitreous injections for both neovascular and atrophic forms of AMD. Data from the two clinical trials of oral nutrients, AREDS/AREDS2 and their ancillary studies on diets, etc. may help in identifying potential targets for future prevention of AMD. The use of artificial intelligence/machine learning may play a crucial role in detecting, classifying, and predicting the course of disease. Currently, no algorithm for the management of AMD has been FDA approved for clinical care. Using the power of “omics” data combined with artificial intelligence may provide hope in discovering preventive strategies that reduce progression from early to late disease.

Friedenwald Award Lecture
Monday, May 6
12:15 - 1pm PT

Anand Swaroop, PhD, FARVO
Genes, networks and karma in retinal development and disease

2024 Friedenwald Award recipient: Anand Swaroop

Stringent control mechanisms are necessary to decode genetic information and produce divergent cellular morphologies and functions during retinal development. Genetic variants and epigenome dynamics can modify gene expression patterns and influence both healthy and disease phenotypes. Further complexity is imparted by gene networks and gene-environment interactions. I will briefly elaborate on genes and networks associated with retinal, especially photoreceptor, differentiation and disease and how non-coding variants can contribute to complex retinal traits, focusing on age-related macular degeneration. Finally, I will argue in favor of gene-agnostic and/or network-based early interventions for treatment of retinal diseases.

Weisenfeld Award Lecture
Wednesday, May 8
8:45 - 9:30am PT

Martine J. Jager, MD, PhD, FARVO 
Macrophages: Two-sided coins in eye diseases 

2024 Weisenfeld Award recipient: Martine Jager

The immune system plays a role in many eye diseases. Immune responses prevent viral infections such as herpes in the cornea. Immune responses can be destructive, eg. against corneal transplants. In glaucoma, high pressure damages retinal cells which brings in macrophages, which then stimulate T cells to attack these damaged cells, leading to even more damage (Dr D-F. Chen, Boston).   

Similarly, while one would think that immune responses may be useful to inhibit cancer, my lab showed that the presence of many macrophages in uveal melanoma is a sign of high malignancy. This is associated with specific genetic changes and an increased presence of blood vessels. Interestingly, treatment with a light activated Bel-sar, led to a shift in the type of macrophages, from bad pro-angiogenic M2 to good immune-stimulatory type 1 macrophages (Aura, Boston).  

Further research is needed to see how we can use our new insights in the role of different macrophages for the treatment of eye diseases.   

Cogan Award Lecture
Wednesday, May 8
9:30 - 10:15am PT

Daniel R. Saban, PhD, FARVO
Immune cells: The unseen guardians of ocular health and disease resilience

2024 Cogan Award recipient: Daniel Saban

“Disease”, as defined by Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is a condition that impairs the normal functioning of a living organism. This definition underscores the necessity of comprehending normal physiological states to understand how disruptions can lead to ocular diseases and to devise interventions for restoring health. My laboratory is dedicated to exploring the often-overlooked fact that immune cells play pivotal roles in tissue physiology, including by providing trophic support, facilitating extracellular matrix turnover, and managing waste removal. Our research is uncovering significant contributions of immune cells in the proper functioning of the retina, conventional outflow tract, and cornea—illuminating the delicate balance between health and disease. Harnessing these insights, we are now designing innovative therapeutic strategies that augment disease resiliency, particularly in treating retinal degenerative conditions. Our pioneering approach marks a significant advancement in ophthalmology research and holds promise for the development of analogous treatment strategies to tackle dry eye disease and glaucoma.