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ARVO-India/IERG celebrates 25 years of collaboration in ocular research

This article is part of series that highlights members and activities of ARVO’s 13 International Chapter Affiliates (ICAs)

Subhabrata Chakrabarti, PhD, of the LV Prasad Eye Institute and Gullapalli N. Rao, MD, LV Prasad Eye Institute chair reflect on the history and accomplishments of the Indian Eye Research Group, which became an ARVO Chapter Affiliate in 2011. Learn about the plans for the silver anniversary celebration and what the future holds for this growing organization.

The history of IERG (Indian Eye Research Group) dates back 25 years, when a few like-minded eye researchers from different institutes [LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and National Institute of Nutrition (NIN)] in Hyderabad, India, formed an informal group under the initiative of Gullapalli N. Rao. This was called the "Hyderabad Eye Research Group" which met regularly to discuss various aspects of eye research. Other eye institutes across the country also joined this effort and the organization was formally launched as the "Indian Eye Research Group."

With a current membership of about 250 individuals, IERG is the biggest association of eye researchers in India and has representatives from all the major institutions and universities. IERG officially became an ARVO International Chapter Affiliate (ARVO-India) in 2011. It is operated through a council that includes heads of all the major institutes involved in ocular research.

Are there specific activities that the organization participates in or holds on a yearly basis?

A major activity is ARVO-India’s annual meeting. This meeting is mostly held in Hyderabad and jointly organized by LVPEI and CCMB and rotates at other eye institutes in the alternate years. It provides a common platform for interactions among budding researchers, young scientists, senior scientists and clinicians. The program includes a blend of scientific deliberations from all the major fields of ocular research including (and not limited to) basic and clinical science; translational medicine; optometry; epidemiology and community eye health; low vision and rehabilitation; and innovation and bioengineering.

A major hallmark is the two oration lectures named for the late Bireswar Chakrabarti and Dorairajan Balasubramanian, which are delivered by eminent researchers. Additionally, there are keynote lectures, papers and posters that are presented over two days. In recent years, a pre-conference workshop in the areas of basic science was introduced for young researchers and clinicians. Members-in-training are also provided with travel fellowships, and there are prizes for the best papers and posters.

How does ARVO-India lobby for eye and vision research in India?

The group lobbies at different forums and through various initiatives. One of ARVO-India’s prime achievements was the initiation of the Bilateral Indo-U.S. research program, which is the result of the joint efforts of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This joint extramural grant program was conceived through two Bilateral Indo-U.S. Research Program/ Program in Vision and Research) workshops in 2005 that was spearheaded by Balasubramanian and supported by ARVO. This ongoing program has supported several researchers in India and the U.S. through bilateral grants, travel fellowships and technology transfer.

Other efforts include new avenues of extramural support initiated by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India such as the induction of ARVO-India members onto the task force of funding agencies in India.

What do you consider the greatest successes of IERG and ARVO-India?

In addition to the previously mentioned IERG and ARVO-India annual meeting and the Bilateral Indo-U.S. Research Program, some of our greatest successes include

  • The successful organization of two ARVO-Asia meetings in Hyderabad (2009) and New Delhi (2013), which drew large audiences from Asia and other parts of the world

  • The representation of ARVO-India members on various committees of ARVO, International Society for Eye Research (ISER), American Academy of Optometry (AAO), International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO), (Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology) APAO, and World Glaucoma Association (WGA)

  • Consistent recognition of ARVO-India members-in-training through various international travel grants to society meetings, including ARVO, ISER, APAO, WGA and WOC

What are your plans for the 25th anniversary of ARVO-India/IERG?

The 25th anniversary of ARVO-India/IERG will be held from July 27 – 29, in Hyderabad and is being organized by the LVPEI and CCMB. The meeting’s theme is "With an eye for the eye." The meeting will include a pre-conference workshop on the advanced techniques in genomics, stem cell biology, microbiology and immunology and adaptive optics. The main meeting will include multiple keynote speakers on different themes from India and abroad with oral lectures delivered by ARVO Executive Vice President Justine Smith, FRANZCO, PhD, FARVO, and Narsing Rao, MD, FARVO.

The meeting will include parallel paper and poster sessions and the long-awaited IERG quiz contest (iQUEST). Young investigators will have the opportunity to receive travel support for this meeting in addition to earning prizes for the best papers and posters in each session. The overall program will have many opportunities for networking.

What are some next steps for ARVO-India?

The future of eye research is very bright and promising in India. There are lots of opportunities for furthering such efforts at the national level. A major effort of ARVO-India is to promote translational research and encourage and motivate young researchers through several initiatives. In the future, ARVO-India will help draw clinicians to the field of vision research, by facilitating discussions across different sub-specialties in ophthalmology and basic sciences. Additionally, it will help promote the ARVO "Global Research Training Initiative" across its membership. ARVO-India members are being encouraged to undertake volunteer activities and become actively engaged with the mission of ARVO. SD/JJ