Michele Acton, what will be important to professionals in the eye health and sight loss sectors in 2018?
Tuesday, 9 January 2018
After welcoming the New Year, it’s often an automatic reaction for many of us to think about what the next 12 months will hold. Hannah Adams, editor of NB Online asked a number of key leaders in the eye health and sight loss sector what they think will be important for professionals in 2018.
Michele Acton, Chief Executive, Fight for Sight
What developments do you think will be important to professionals in the eye health and sight loss sector in 2018?
We are seeing exciting progress towards the availability of gene therapy treatments for some inherited retinal diseases and can expect more clinical trials and genetic testing in this area.
As well, cataract surgery is improving and reducing the number of people who subsequently need glasses.
Drug delivery strategies for sustained release of treatments are also improving and could reduce the dependence on daily eye drops for conditions such as glaucoma.
We are also seeing significant advances in retinal imaging improving diagnosis for conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.
Do you have any professional new year’s resolutions for 2018?
Fight for Sight advertises calls to researchers to put forward their best research proposals to help tackle different eye diseases and conditions. Sadly we can only fund one in eight of the research proposals that we receive.
Our new year’s resolution is to find ways of funding more research either directly ourselves or by working in collaboration with others. In 2017 we partnered with 15 organisations to increase funding for research to address a range of different eye conditions and, for the first time, for research into Charles Bonnet Syndrome.
What will be your work priorities for 2018?
Fight for Sight’s unique selling point is that we are pioneering – through funding early-stage research that many other funders won’t fund and funding innovative research that looks at new ways of addressing sight loss.
Fight for Sight launched a new strategy last year and our focus in 2018 is to embed this across the charity. Our pioneering research activities remain at the core of how we will address sight loss but we will amplify the impact we can have through our policy and influencing work, our provision of information and through patient-led innovation.
In your view, what was the biggest breakthrough in 2017?
In December 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Luxturna, a gene therapy, to treat children and adult patients with a particular inherited retinal disease. This was not only the first approved gene therapy treatment for an eye disease but also the first directly administered gene therapy approved in the US that targets a disease caused by mutations in a specific gene. This was groundbreaking and we hope that it will pave the way for approvals in the UK and other countries for gene therapies to address this and other inherited eye diseases.