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Glaucoma 360 New Horizons Forum Provides Vision for 2020

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The 2020 New Horizons Forum at Glaucoma 360, hosted by Glaucoma Research Foundation, provided a full day of presentations and discussions, featuring startup company leaders, industry executives, ophthalmic experts, venture capitalists, and representatives from the FDA. Although the core topic was glaucoma, the information presented and networking opportunities provided applied to all of ophthalmology.

The day began with an honest assessment of the current state of research and development by keynote speaker David Parke II, MD, CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Dr. Parke’s lecture on health policy and health economics, “When Cost and Innovation Collide in Ophthalmology,” made the presentations that followed even more impactful. Noting that “innovation technologies are the single greatest factor for the rising cost of health care today,” Dr. Parke confirmed the AAO’s commitment to moving innovation forward and managing health care costs through its collaboration with state and federal government, insurance carriers, and the membership of the AAO.

Andrew Iwach, MD, with David W. Parke II, MD, Chief Executive Officer, American Academy of Ophthalmology

With 33 companies presenting innovations and more than 380 attendees asking questions, networking, and exchanging ideas, Glaucoma 360’s New Horizons Forum provided a boost of energy and commitment to the future of glaucoma diagnosis and treatment. One such technology reporting on its progress in the past year was BELKIN Laser’s noncontact laser that theoretically would do the equivalent of an SLT in one second. The device is timed well with Lancet publication of the LiGHT study in 2019 that concluded SLT may be the preferred first-line treatment for early glaucoma. Data reported by BELKIN show the same outcome as the current SLT procedure, and an improved safety profile. Thus, this could significantly impact the treatment algorithm.

No program on innovation would be complete without neuroprotection and regeneration. One of the most exciting treatments on the horizon is the ReNexus NT-501 Implant, genetically modified ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) encapsulated cell therapy. Jeffrey L. Goldberg, MD, PhD, explained that when the CNTF is surgically implanted under the sclera, it thickens the retinal nerve fiber layer and prevents the retinal ganglion cells from dying, therefore preventing glaucomatous damage. Findings at 2 years suggest the implant helps prevent vision loss, and phase 2 studies will address questions such as whether doubling the dose would help twice as much.

In the “Show Me the Money” segment of the New Horizons Forum, 3 entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to venture capitalists and company executives, and audience members voted on which startup they would fund. Qlaris Bio won the 2020 “Perfect Pitch” competition, with its potassium channel blocker that targets episcleral venous pressure (EVP) with no significant side effects. Developers see this as a possible primary treatment for glaucomas of EVP, such as Sturge-Weber syndrome, and possibly as an additive agent to MIGS. Last year’s “Perfect Pitch” winner, Vivid Vision, returned to New Horizons to present their VVP-10, a low-cost home perimetry unit that utilizes video game design to detect progression to 1 db of sensitivity. They report continued progress, with more than 350 providers currently using the device. We look forward to hearing their progress next year.

Thurein Htoo, MS, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of Qlaris Bio, Inc., Winner of the 2020 Perfect Pitch Award

For innovators in the audience wondering how they can get their great ideas off the ground, the Forum brought “Innovation 101: How to Translate an Idea into Breakthrough Therapies.” With step-by-step instruction, speakers provided a road map for how to advance from an idea to commercialization.