ARVO 2019

The annual meeting for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) conference was held in Vancouver, Canada from the 27 April – 2 May.

ARVO is the largest eye and vision research organisation in the world showcasing a vast and diverse perspective on where the field is and where it’s going, with nearly 12,000 delegates attending from more than 75 countries. The conference was held at the Vancouver Convention Centre which, with its harbourfront location and breathtaking views, offered a picturesque setting to present one’s research, catch up with colleagues and collaborators and devour all the new research being presented in one location.

The conference theme, From Bench to Bedside and Back, highlighted the work of this year’s two keynote speakers, both renowned translational researchers who successfully converted molecular knowledge into targeted therapies. Professor Randy Schekman, UC Berkeley, won The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2013 for his work on yeast genetics that led to the discovery of machinery regulating vesicle trafficking. As well as extracellular vesicles studies, his work is now being applied to studies of genetic diseases of protein transport. The other renowned translational researcher, Dr Martin Gleave from the University of British Columbia, successfully translated his work by identifying a cancer-related cell survival protein involved in treatment resistance and thus developed an inhibitor which improves the efficacy of therapeutic interventions for patients with pancreatic cancer.

In addition to keynote presentations, there were a plethora of paper sessions, mini-symposia, workshops, special interest group meetings and poster presentations, plus several ‘pre-meetings’ which ran before the main conference, including Imaging in the Eye, and education courses on diabetic retinopathy and artificial intelligence.

The meeting was well represented by researchers and clinician-scientists from the University of Auckland’s Departments of Physiology (Molecular Vision Laboratory) and Ophthalmology and the School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS). Members of The Molecular Vision Laboratory presented their research as part of a mini symposium on the physiological biochemistry of the lens. PhD student Luis Knight, whose travel was funded by the Auckland Medical Research Foundation, gave a talk about his work into retinal bioenergetics and metabolic interactions. The ophthalmology group presented a variety of topics ranging from diabetic retinopathy, treatment of cystic maculopathy in inherited retinal degenerations and dry eye disease. While the SOVS team presented on a wide range of topics including amblyopia, visual acuity, age-related macular degeneration and choroidal thickness, preschool vision screening, strabismus and retinal markers in dementia. The wide range of topics covered highlights the breadth of research currently being conducted in vision science within the University of Auckland.

For me, personally, a poignant moment at ARVO was the Venkat N Reddy Memorial Session, honouring the memory of Dr Reddy who did so much to promote lens research over his long career. A giant in the lens field, many well recognised and eminent lens researchers spoke of his charisma, the time he gave so generously to the younger lens researchers and his passion for lens research. An award in his name has been established to support young lens researchers. It will be presented at the International Conference on the Lens, held from the 9-13 December 2019 in Kona, Hawaii, and our own Molecular Vision Laboratory has been tasked with organising the scientific programme.

With such an information-packed conference, it was important for a bit of downtime and “networking”. As usual, a highlight of the conference was the ARVO social held at the Vancouver Aquarium where attendees were treated to a dolphin and sea lion show and a 4D movie experience. This was a fun way to reconnect with our collaborators and socialise with the “Kiwis” over food and drinks. Because of limited direct flights between Vancouver and Auckland, there was also time either side of the conference to see many of the sights Vancouver has to offer, including Stanley Park (Vancouver’s equivalent of Central Park), Granville Island, Capilano Suspension Bridge (140 metres long and 70 metres up high!) and a trip up to Grouse Mountain to visit the Grizzly Bears.

The next ARVO meeting will head back in Baltimore, USA, and although the venue may not be exciting as Vancouver, it is the attendees that make the ARVO conference what it is, so I hope to see you all at ARVO 2020!

Dr Julie Lim is a senior lecturer in the Molecular Vision Laboratory, Department of Physiology at the University of Auckland. Her research involves redox biology in the lens with a focus on aging and cataract. Dr Lim is also the lens section representative on ARVO’s Annual Meeting Programme Committee.


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