Retina, the annual conference for people with sight loss and their families, organised by Fighting Blindness, returns to Dublin on Saturday November 5 for its first in-person event since 2019.
Now in its 23rd year, Retina brings the sight loss community together with leading experts to hear about the latest treatments revolutionising eye care, to learn of the range of supports people can access, and to share stories and gain support from others on a similar journey.
It offers an ideal opportunity for attendees to quiz the experts as to their own conditions and to find out about the promising developments taking place across a range of disease areas.
With latest figures showing that there are approximately 272,000 people in Ireland living with blindness or vision impairment, this event will be of huge interest to the sight loss community who will be able to attend both in-person, and remotely should they so choose.
Registration for the conference, which is taking place in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin 2, is open at www.fightingblindness.ie
Putting Away Canes
Among the speakers headlining this year’s event will be Ben Shaberman, from Foundation Fighting Blindness USA, who will provide an overview of some of the cutting-edge clinical trials underway, including new gene therapies that are enabling people to put away their canes and see stars in the sky for the first time. Also speaking will be Dr Nikolas Pontikos, from Moorfields Eye Hospital in the UK, who will share details of his work on the “Eye2Gene” artificial intelligence medical device to accurately diagnose and personalise treatments for eye disease.
Other high-profile speakers include consultant ophthalmologists Prof. David Keegan, from the Mater Hospital, and Dr Emma Duignan, Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, on looking after our eye health, and Avril Daly, CEO of Retina International, who will address the importance of clinical trials being firmly focused on the patient. In addition, there will be talks on peer support and supporting partners in their role, as well as a discussion on living with sight loss at different life stages.
The day will begin with an opportunity for attendees to appreciate the musical talents of the Visionaries Choir, Ireland’s only choir for people with sight loss, who will undertake their first in-person recital at Retina since 2019.
Hope & Promise
For Ben Shaberman, vice president science communications at the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the future for research is very exciting with new therapies coming down the tracks that have the potential to restore vision to people who are blind:
“There are more than 40 clinical trials underway for retinal degenerative diseases with many more emerging therapies on the doorstep to the clinic. Some of the approaches, like optogenetics, hold promise for restoring vision to people who are completely blind. Other ‘gene-agnostic’ approaches are aimed at slowing vision loss so no one ever goes blind. This progress is bringing tremendous hope and real promise that we will have more vision-saving and restoring therapies cross the finish line in the next five to ten years.”
For Anna Moran, interim CEO of Fighting Blindness, Retina is an important event in bringing the sight loss community together to gain support from each other:
“This year our renowned Retina conference reverts to an in-person event, providing a return to much-needed engagement and social interaction between clinicians, researchers and the sight loss community. It is vital to ensure that there is common purpose and understanding in the goals and outcomes that serve those living with sight loss.
“Since Fighting Blindness was established in 1983, we have worked hard to advance eye research and invested over €20 million in 115 research projects. Indeed, in 1989, we funded research that found the first gene responsible for sight loss. By bringing the sight loss and research communities together, we aim to offer hope for the future and work collectively in our shared desire to develop new treatments and potential cures for a range of eye diseases.”
Retina 2022 is supported by AbbVie, Novartis, Roche and Specsavers. For more information on the conference proceedings and to register, visit www.fightingblindness.ie, or follow on Twitter @fight_blindness #RetinaDublin
Image: Shane O’Neill, Coalesce