Halifax joined the ranks of such cities as Geneva, Paris, San Francisco and Jerusalem this past summer, as host of the prestigious biennial meeting of the International Society for Genetic Eye Diseases and Retinoblastoma (ISGEDR).

“Hosting this conference put Halifax and Dalhousie on the world map as a leading centre in eye research,” says conference chair Dr. Johane Robitaille, an internationally known vision researcher and professor in the departments of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Pathology and Pediatrics at Dalhousie Medical School.

“The $10,000 Research, Dissemination & Commercialization Grant from the Brain Repair Centre was an important sponsorship that made it possible for us to hold this conference here,” Dr. Robitaille says.

Scientists, clinicians, clinician-scientists and allied health professionals from all around the world converged on Halifax in August 2015, to share the latest findings about causes, mechanisms and emerging treatments for a range of rare hereditary eye diseases.

“These diseases are so rare, we need a global community with which to share ideas and identify challenges, priorities and opportunities,” says Dr. Robitaille. “There are only a few ocular geneticists in Canada—for our research to thrive and our patients to reap the benefits of worldwide efforts, we must connect with our international colleagues to foster research collaborations and share what we’re learning about improving outcomes and care for our patients.” 

Patients and their families played an important role at the Halifax event. On the closing evening, Maritimers and family members affected by hereditary eye diseases joined the researchers to learn about new developments on the frontiers of vision science. Locally, for example, Dr. Robitaille is collaborating with Dr. Jason Berman to develop zebrafish models of genetic eye disease for using in testing potential new treatments.


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