Glaucoma 360 kicks off with Gala

February 7, 2020
Lynda Charters

The Charity event kicks off the three-day program, focusing on melding medicine, industry, research, and philanthropy.

On Thursday, the Glaucoma Research Foundation kicked off the 2020 edition of Glaucoma 360 with its Annual Gala.

The meeting intertwines celebration, innovation, and education in its efforts to eradicate glaucoma. Ophthalmology Times is the official partner and media sponsor for the 2020 Glaucoma 360 meeting.

“Glaucoma 360 is the GRF’s signature event highlighting innovations in glaucoma therapy and helping to accelerate patient access to the latest and most effective diagnostic tools and treatment options,” said Thomas Brunner, president and CEO of the foundation.

This year’s events are being held at a new venue, the Grand Hyatt San Francisco at Union Square.

Annual Gala

The Annual Gala, the GRF’s primary fundraising event and the celebratory portion of the triad of activities this week, opened the 2020 version of Glaucoma 360 in grand fashion and had something for everyone, with accolades bestowed on innovators in research, medicine, and industry, as well as philanthropists.

The co-chairpersons of this year’s Annual Gala were Michele and Steven Kirsch.

Following a reception, the approximately 350 attendees were treated to silent and live auctions, dinner, and a matching gift opportunity as part of the Fund-A-Scientist Initiative. The goal of the fundraising live-auction Fund-A-Scientist project was $300,000, including $150,000 secured in advance as matching funds. Overall, the GRF’s goal is to raise more than $1 million to support its programs through the Glaucoma 360 events.

“The GRF’s Annual Gala is a wonderful opportunity to recognize and celebrate many of the extraordinary people, the donors, volunteers, and scientists, who support our mission to cure glaucoma, and for the researchers we fund to report on their progress and their goals for the coming year,” Brunner said.

The three-day Glaucoma 360 meeting spotlights the latest innovations in glaucoma technology, diagnostics, and therapies designed to help eradicate glaucoma.

The conference was co-founded by Adrienne L. Graves, PhD, a board member of GRF and an independent director on the boards of many ophthalmic companies, and Andrew G. Iwach, MD, chairman of the GRF board of directors, and executive director, Glaucoma Center of San Francisco. The pair envisioned bringing together research, medicine, industry, and philanthropy to focus on glaucoma.

Welcome address

Dr. Iwach delivered the welcome address at the Gala.

Vicente Anido Jr., PhD, and Thomas A. Mitro, from Aerie Pharmaceuticals Inc., received the Catalyst Award, the highest honor bestowed by the GRF. Dr. Graves presented the award in recognition of their advancement of new therapies for patients with glaucoma and partnership of the education and research programs.

“It is a great pleasure to recognize Dr. Anido Jr., and Mr. Mitro, and the entire Aerie team for building a new pharmaceutical company focused on developing novel medications to treat glaucoma, as well as for for their significant partnership and support for the Glaucoma Research Foundation and our mission of education and research,” Brunner said.

The foundation’s Visionary Award was given to Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD, for his leadership of the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the launch of the Institute’s Audacious Goals Initiative for Regenerative Medicine that strives to replace glaucomatous retinal cells and restore their connection to the visual center of the brain.

In reflecting on the Visionary Award, Brunner noted that Dr. Sieving recently retired as director of the NEI after serving for 18 years.

“During his tenure, his leadership kept the NEI on the front lines of vision research, supporting cutting-edge projects to prevent, treat, and reverse vision loss,” he said. “With this award, we recognize Paul for his tremendous sight-saving achievements."

Dr. Sieving has joined the faculty of the University of California Davis Health Eye Center, where he is continuing his research.

Research honors

Dorota Skowronska-Krawcyzk, MSc, PhD, from the University of California, San Diego, and the Shiley Eye Institute, was granted the Shaffer Prize for her research into deciphering molecular mechanisms underlying retinal biology using molecular and cellular approaches. The Wilmoth Family received the President’s Award for their continuing philanthropic efforts to spur research, education, and advocacy about glaucoma.

The Catalyst for a Cure Research Initiative, now in its second year, benefits from the Annual Gala fundraising proceeds. This initiative supports the collaboration of four scientists who work “to find novel ways to restore vision lost due to glaucoma by focusing on ways to restore, repair, and rebuild the optic nerve,” according to the GRF.

Those scientists are Xin Duan, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Ophthalmology And Physiology, Weill Institute for Neurosciences, University of California, San Francisco; Yang Hu, MD, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Stanford University School of Medicine; Anna La Torre, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis; and Derek Welsbie, MD, PhD, assistant professor Ophthalmology, Shiley Eye Institute, University of California, San Diego.

New Horizons Forum and Glaucoma Symposia Glaucoma 360 continues today with the ninth annual New Horizons Forum, the innovation segment of the annual meeting that spotlights panelists and speakers from more than 60 companies and institutions. A full slate of sessions will be offered to attendees to update them on the latest technologies and treatments for glaucoma.

Glaucoma 360 wraps up on Saturday with two sessions at the Glaucoma Symposia, that offer continuing education credits for ophthalmologists and optometrists.

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