Promising New Advances in Retinal Research and Potential Treatments for Vision Loss to be Discussed at Upcoming VISIONS 2016 Conference

(Baltimore, MD) – VISIONS 2016, the conference of the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), will bring together some of the world’s leading vision scientists, assistive technologies experts and the visually impaired community, all sharing information on advances for dealing with retinal disease.  More than 400 people from around the world will attend the conference where leading researchers in the areas of gene, stem cell and pharmaceutical treatments to prevent, treat and cure blindness due to retinal diseases will discuss their work.

The 45 year old Foundation Fighting Blindness, the world’s largest medical philanthropy focused on inherited retinal disease, literally created the field of scientific discovery focused on the retina through its support of laboratory research and clinical trials.  When the Foundation was founded in 1971, there were no clinical trials on treatments for inherited retinal diseases; today there are 20.

Leading retinal researchers presenting at the conference will include: Dr. David Gamm of the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Shomi Bhattacharya of University College, London; Dr. John Flannery of the University of California at Berkeley; Dr. Donald Zack of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Dr. Marco Zarbin of Rutgers News Jersey Medical School.  They will discuss current research advances and on-going clinical trials for Retinitis Pigmentosa, age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Leber congenital amaurosis, Stargardt disease and Usher Syndrome.  Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people 55 and over. 

These researcher and physician led sessions will include information on recent advances in vision prosthetics, gene therapy, stem-cell therapy and gene editing.  Gene therapy attempts to take the remaining retinal cells in a blind person’s eye and make them light-sensitive so vision can be restored.  Stem-cell therapy replaces photoreceptors that are no longer working in a blind person’s eyes.  Gene editing fixes gene mutations that are causing a person’s blindness.  Gene and stem-cell treatments are currently being tested in clinical trials.

“While there is more work to do, significant progress toward treating blindness caused by retinal disease has been made,” says FFB’s Chief Research Officer Dr. Stephen Rose.  “Today there is real reason to be optimistic that blindness due to inherited retinal diseases will be treatable, even curable, within the next few decades thanks to advances in gene and cell therapy as well as gene editing treatments,” Rose said. 

Until a cure is found, additional conference sessions will help those with low or no-vision navigate their surroundings, excel in the workplace and enjoy full lives.  These sessions include information on building independence in children with visual impairments, adapting a home for visually impaired family members, and the use of guide dogs vs. canes for mobility.

“This is a special conference because in addition to being the world’s largest funder of retinal disease research, the Foundation provides information, assistance and a sense of community to the approximately 10 million Americans and millions more worldwide dealing with vision loss due to inherited retinal disease,” says FFB CEO Bill Schmidt.

What: VISIONS 2016 National Conference of the Foundation Fighting Blindness

When: June 30 – July 3

Where: Baltimore Marriott Waterfront

FOR RELEASE: June 16, 2016

Contact: Rhea Farberman/410 423-0635

Original Date: 
Thursday, June 16, 2016