Research Summit: Where Next For Eye Research?
Yesterday, Fight for Sight and Vision UK hosted a Research Summit, which brought together influential organisations from the eye health sector. Attendees heard about the latest developments in research and the enormous impact the sector could have on vision loss, if funding into eye research was a priority.
The day began with Fight for Sight’s CEO, Michele Acton, opening the summit by stating the importance and need for eye research in order to combat sight loss. These thoughts were reiterated by Richard Wormald, a consultant from Moorfields Eye Hospital. He spoke about the need for the sector to work in partnership using a collaborative and supportive approach.
Another strong message was the importance of the patient voice. This was highlighted by hearing from the first person in the world to undergo gene therapy in the eye, Robert Johnson, who expressed his thoughts about the therapy and how he felt about the process.
Rupert Bourne, a Professor of Ophthalmology from Anglia Ruskin University, spoke about the importance of the proposed UK National Eye Health Survey as there is currently no nation-wide population based data on the prevalence and causes of vision impairment.
Other insights came from Lord Low of Dalston, a Fight for Sight patron, who discussed the next steps for eye research as he acknowledged that “eye research is woefully underfunded in comparison to other medical research”. The comments and discussion which followed showed that this sentiment was supported by various other organisations.
Dr Aniz Girach, Chief Medical Officer of Nightstar Therapeutics, highlighted how funding from charities can make a big difference. “It’s important for charities to fund pre-clinical work as it starts a domino effect, which pushes the process and ultimately leads to big things such as drug approval”, as he took the room through a timeline of the formation of Nightstar and how Fight for Sight was the catalyst.
Our Director of Research, Policy and Innovation, George McNamara, offered his thoughts about making eye research a priority for the sector as a whole. He then went on to detail how Fight for Sight is adopting a theory of change approach to how the charity maximises its impact.
Partnership working was an essential topic of the day, which was echoed by Sine Littlewood, Head of Business Development at National Institute for Health Research. She spoke about the different ways in which the NIHR collaborates and offers support. For instance they provide a study support service to individuals applying for grants.
Cathy Yelf, CEO of the Macular Society, and Nick Caplin, CEO Blind Veterans, built upon the topic of partnership working, by discussing the formation of AAA (Action Against Age-related Macular Degeneration). This is a partnership between Fight for Sight, the Macular Society and Blind Veterans.
Finally we heard from Matthew Norton, Director of Policy and Strategy from Alzheimer’s Research UK, who discussed the progress made in dementia research and its funding and how the lessons learnt could be applied to the eye health sector.
The research summit was a wonderful event which put partnership working, patient involvement and the need for research, at the forefront of the sector.