This proposal requests partial support for the third Gordon Research Conference (GRC) and the first Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) on Cornea, the Biology and Pathobiology of, in Ventura, California, February, 16-21 (GRC), and February 15 -16 (GRS) 2014. The broad and long-term goal of this Cornea-GRC &GRS is to reduce corneal blindness by fostering innovation in corneal research. Researchers and trainees will be brought together to exchange data and educate one another in a GRC format (about 165 attendees including 50-60 GRS attendees) that enables cross-disciplinary discussions and collaborations. As a result, it will improve our understanding of corneal biology and pathobiology and foster development of new treatment regimens for diseases causing corneal blindness. The theme of the third GRC: Cornea, Biology and Pathobiology will be cutting edge research examining the cell lineage and cell fate of ocular surface tissues, e.g., cornea, conjunctiva, eyelid, lacrimal glands, and Meibomian glands, during development and pathogenesis. Morpho- genesis of ocular surface tissues during development involves two major cellular events: 1. the migration and differentiation of particular mesenchymal cells of neural crest origin for the formation of ocular tissue stromal, 2. differentiation of surface ectoderm into ocular surface epithelia and glands. A better understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms governing the orderly migration and differentiation of cells during development will aid in the design of treatment regimens for the restoration of tissue function lost by eye disease. Invited speakers represent a variety of scientific disciplines, including molecular and cellular biology, molecular genetics, biochemistry, structural biology, imaging, tissue engineering, tissue reconstruction and clinical ophthalmology. The Conference will bring together a collection of investigators who are at the forefront of ocular surface biology, and will provide opportunities fo young investigators including graduate students, post docs and early career researchers to present their work and exchange ideas with leaders in the field. Some poster presenters will be selected for short talks in GRC. The collegial atmosphere of this Conference, with programmed discussion sessions as well as opportunities for informal gatherings in the afternoons and evenings, provides an avenue for scientists from different disciplines to brainstorm and promotes cross- disciplinary collaborations in the various research areas represented. The GRS is targeted for graduate students, post-docs, early-career scientists and young faculty providing unique forum for young investigators to discuss their work in a less intimidating environment, however, in a GRC setting. The principal topic of the GRS is The Future Directions of Corneal Research which aims to give the young investigators a notion of the new trends and new directions of cornea/ocular surface tissue research to help them design and plan their future line of research. Moreover, the meeting will have a unique Session on "How to Write a Competitive Grant" followed by an open floor discussion, which is a vital step in a young investigators career.
The maintenance of corneal transparency is critical to vision, which depends not only on the health and homeostasis of three unique corneal cell types, i.e., the corneal epithelial cells, stromal hepatocytes and corneal endothelial cells and several types of resident immune cells but also on surrounding supportive ocular surface tissues such as the conjunctiva, eyelids, lacrimal and Meibomian glands. The Gordon Research Conference and Seminar on the Biology and Pathobiology of the Cornea will bring together leading scientists and trainees from around the world in a format that allows collegial discussion of un-published results and ideas, cutting edge knowledge and exploration of novel treatment regimens for the regeneration of transparent and functional corneas from diseased corneas.