Award Lectures

Proctor Medal Lecture
Monday, April 24, 8:45-9:30am CT

Recipient: Eric A. Pierce, MD, PhD, FARVO
Ophthalmology at the forefront of precision medicine:  From genes to therapies for inherited retinal degenerations

2023 Proctor Medal recipient: Eric A. PierceInherited retinal degenerations (IRDs) are important causes of vision loss across the age spectrum.  Over the past 30 years, progress made toward understanding the genetic causes of IRDs, and using that information to develop precision medicines to preserve vision for people affected by IRDs has been extraordinary. Indeed, vision science is taking a leading role in changing the paradigm of medicine. In this lecture, I will describe research progress made towards understanding the pathogenesis of and developing genetic therapies for several genetic forms of IRD.

Friedenwald Award Lecture
Monday, April 24, 9:30-10:15am CT

Recipient: Tien Y. Wong, MBBS, PhD, FARVO
The diabetic retinopathy “pandemic” and evolving global strategies

2023 Friedenwald Award recipient: Tien Y. Wong

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) remains the leading cause of blindness among working adult people worldwide. About 600 million will have diabetes by 2040, with a third having DR and up to a tenth having diabetic macular edema (DME). First, there is clearer understanding of the major understanding of the epidemiology of DR and modifiable risk factors, paving the way for broad systemic management. Second, there is a shift in management in DR, with landmark clinical trials providing the evidence on the effectiveness of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) therapy as the standard of care for management of DME. Third, there is advances in the development in ocular imaging, particularly in OCT and OCT-angiography, for improved risk stratification, allowing more precise prognosis and improved management. Finally, there are effective methods to improve DR screening, a universally accepted strategy for the prevention of visual impairment. This includes availability of low-cost digital fundus cameras, improved tele-ophthalmology platforms and the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) which allows scaling of screening strategies in low- and middle-income communities. Despite these major advances, the DR “pandemic is not yet won, and there continues to be significant challenges. Many patients with DR in the community are unaware of their condition, and many countries do not have access to anti-VEGF therapies or screening programs. This lecture will cover progress made, lessons learnt and challenges that remain in the on-going battle with DR.

Weisenfeld Award Lecture
Wednesday, April 26, 8:45-9:30am CT

Recipient: Leonard Levin, MD, PhD, FARVO
Iliad and Odyssey: A journey weaving and unweaving the axon

2023 Weisenfeld Award recipient: Leonard Levin

The most prominent cause of irreversible visual loss worldwide is chronic glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve. The many other optic nerve diseases are common causes of acute and chronic visual loss, e.g. associated with tumors, ischemic events, inflammation, nutritional deficiency, genetic mutations, and many other. All of these diseases share a pathophysiological feature, primary damage to the retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axon. For three decades our group has focused on how different diseases cause axonal damage, how axonal damage causes loss of the RGC soma, how axon degeneration occurs and progresses, and how therapeutic drugs can be developed to prevent axonal loss and thereby thwart blindness. Despite our work and that of others, therapies for RGC axonal disease have been nearly impossible to realize, and we have also focused on the necessity of changing our approach to this translational challenge for treatments to develop.

Cogan Award Lecture
Wednesday, April 26, 9:30-10:15am CT

Recipient: Budd Tucker, PhD
Treating inherited retinal degenerative blindness

2023 Cogan Award recipient: Budd Tucker

Inherited retinal degenerative disorders, ranging from relatively common conditions such as Stargardt disease to rare forms of retinitis pigmentosa, are extraordinarily genetically heterogeneous. To date more than 100 different genes and thousands of different disease-causing mutations have been identified. The unifying feature of these conditions is the ultimate death of the light sensing photoreceptor cells of the outer neural retina. As the retina has little intrinsic regenerative capacity, photoreceptor cell death results in irreversible vision loss. Fortunately, scientific progress in the fields of molecular genetics, genome editing, and stem cell biology have given us reason to be optimistic for the future of patients who receive an inherited retinal degeneration diagnosis. In this talk I will discuss work from our group focused on the use of patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells to molecularly diagnosis, study and treat patients with inherited retinal degeneration. Specifically, I will provide examples of how we are using patient iPSCs to evaluate the pathogenicity of novel genetic variations, test the efficacy of preventative gene-based therapeutics and develop a restorative autologous photoreceptor cell replacement approach.