Funds are requested to support the 30th Biennial Cornea Conference to be held at the Schepens Eye Research Institute on October 13-14, 2017. The meeting is co-chaired by Dr. Jurkunas, MD, an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and Dr. Reza Dana, the Claes H. Dohlman Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. In addition, eleven experts in the field of Cornea comprise the Organizing Committee and have worked to create a program that builds on the success of the previous 29 conferences, first started in the 1960s. Corneal blindness is a common cause of vision loss worldwide and a leading cause of visual impairment across all age groups. Thousands of corneal transplants are performed annually for various forms of corneal blindness and carry numerous medical risks that further escalate healthcare costs associated with the management of immunologic graft rejection, microbial keratitis, ocular surface dysfunction, and endothelial failure. Therefore, it is imperative to better understand the mechanisms behind corneal disease development. The goal of this conference is to create an opportunity for discussion and for the formation of collaborations aimed at elucidating the mechanisms that underlie the development various ocular surface and corneal diseases. This year's program will be comprised of sessions on Ocular Surface, Immunology and Microbiology, Endothelial Biology, and Innovation and New Technologies. Presentations on emerging technology will shed a light on new developments in biomaterials and cornea regeneration with stem cells; thus building links between pathobiology of corneal disorders and exiting new technology to combat blindness. A unique feature of this conference is the ample time for discussion after each speaker presentation, as well as a 20- minute panel discussion at the end of each section. Additionally, this conference honors two seminal physician-scientists with the two named lectures, Dr. Kazuo Tsubota, a leader in anti- aging research, will give the Claes Dohlman Lecture; and Dr. Reza Dana, world-renowned corneal immunologist, will give the Wayne Streilein Lecture. The conference has also dedicated 3 hours for trainee poster presentations. These anticipated 70 poster presentations allow trainees the opportunity to present their research to all conference attendees, receive immediate feedback, and engage leading experts in cornea in conversation over their work. The anticipated attendance for the conference is over 200 physicians, scientists, and trainees from all over the world. We intend to provide travel awards to attract graduate students and fellows, with a particular emphasis on under-represented minorities and persons with disabilities.
In the United States, more than 4.8 million Americans are affected by ocular surface disease in the form of dry eye syndrome, and more than 48,000 corneal transplants are performed annually for various forms of corneal blindness. Given that corneal blindness accounts for 7% of the visually impaired population worldwide, a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the corneal disease development is imperative. The objective of this multidisciplinary conference is for clinicians, scientists, and trainees to stimulate discussions and forge novel collaborations aimed at elucidating the mechanisms that underlie the development of dry eyes, microbial eye diseases, immune graft rejection, and endothelial dysfunction; thus, identifying the means to treat, cure, and prevent corneal blindness. Achieving these goals will not only further the quality of life for our aging population but will, in the long term, reduce the burden to society from these blinding conditions.