Adrienne Graves, PhD, and Andrew Iwach, MD, co-founders of Glaucoma 360, share insights into the formation of the Glaucoma Research Foundation and what makes Glaucoma 360 such a unique conference.
Adrienne Graves, PhD, and Andrew Iwach, MD, co-founders of Glaucoma 360, sat down with MJH Life Sciences' Peg Achenbach, OD, FAAO, Executive Director/Global Ambassador Strategies, Ophthalmology and Optometry, at this year's Glaucoma 360 event to share insights into the formation of the Glaucoma Research Foundation and what makes Glaucoma 360 such a unique conference.
Editor's note - This transcript has been edited for clarity:
Well it started back in 1978, Dr. Robert Shaffer, John Hetherington and Dunbar Hoskins were in practice together, and a couple of patients made significant donations. And that then was the seed money that started the Glaucoma Research Foundation. Over time the organization has grown and we've diversified the number of donors and so forth. And that's allowed us to do a number of things which eventually, of course lead to Glaucoma 360.
And, as Andrew said, our foundation was really in glaucoma research because we believe that it's research that will lead to new and better therapies and ultimately, perhaps to a cure. that we're going for. And the research that we fund is quite unique in that it's collaborative. That's the key word here — collaboration. We fund groups of scientists, we've funded now, we're now on our fourth group of funded scientists who work together. They're from different institutions, they have somewhat different technical skills and research specialties, but they work together on common topics. So our third group, which is has been funded since 2019, and is ongoing because they've made so much progress in neurodegeneration and models of vision restoration. Our fourth group, which we just launched in July, is our first multi-disease group. So we have glaucoma researchers, together with Alzheimer's researchers because we're looking at glaucoma as a neurodegenerative disease. And so they're looking at common mechanisms of neurodegeneration.
We've had a really good morning, and from a variety of different perspectives. And again, Glaucoma 360 brings together all the different components that you need, if you walked into that room with an idea, you have everything you need to take it to a solution for patients. And so we talked about some of the challenges that industry is having, some newer approaches for delivering medications, for example, a whole new class of medication was today announced that should be available soon in the United States. And then the most a very exciting topic is neuroregeneration, regenerating these nerves, something we've been chasing for, for so long that different ways that we can maybe actually get people to see better, and not only maintain their vision.
We started this meeting, Andrew and I did, because while our research is fundamental to what we do as an organization, as you know, research takes time. And we thought about what can we do to really help patients in the near term with better therapies, better devices. And so we created this meeting, to highlight innovation, and to highlight early-stage companies and to put them together with all the resources that they need. So we've got an investor panel today, and investors are on the lookout for key new innovations to fund. We have the FDA here. Very important in charting a company and knowing what you need to do very early on to get approval. And then we have the larger companies here who are also looking for assets to acquire because there's no one company in the world no matter how big they are, that can have laboratories in every possible area within ophthalmology. So we are hoping to, by highlighting early-stage companies, to speed their progress and get new products on the market to help glaucoma patients.
I mean, last night we celebrated. Today we innovate. And tomorrow we educate. And so things go really well for someone today on a Friday, then tomorrow. You're going to be on the program on Saturday. We have over 300 eye surgeons are scheduled to be here tomorrow morning. In the afternoon, we have over 400 optometrists. They're here to learn, and we give them practical advice, updates, things that will help them the following week in the clinic to help patients. And so this package where we do some fundraising last night, today we're trying to accelerate getting those new ideas and solutions to patients. And then tomorrow we get the word out, what's out there, so patients get the best possible care and maintain the best possible quality of life as they live with glaucoma.