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Volume 2, Issue 4 / Fall 2012  

Dr. Steven J. Fliesler

Dr. Steven J. Fliesler

President's Message

In my prior Newsletter message (July 2012), we were just about to embark upon the XXth ISER Biennial Meeting in Berlin. I'm pleased to announce now that the meeting was a huge success - in fact, many people came up to me during and after the meeting to tell me they thought it was THE BEST ISER meeting they had ever attended.  I have to say, in retrospect, I feel the same way. Kudos, and thanks again, to the Scientific Program Committee members, to our corporate sponsors, to the awardees, to the presenters (platform and poster sessions), and to all the other people who made the meeting happen and contributed to its success.

When all was said and done, we had a total of 1032 attendees from 53 countries, dominated by attendees from North America (ca. 40%), Western Europe (ca. 39%), and Asia-Pacific (ca. 15%).  The meeting venue (the Maritim Hotel Berlin) was spectacular and well suited to our needs, with ample accommodations for the plenary lectures and the smaller platform presentations, plus poster sessions and exhibitor space. There was a Welcome Reception in the main hall of the hotel on Saturday night (July 21), with cocktails, light buffet and live music; this was very well attended. On a given day, there were 6-8 parallel platform sessions in the mornings, a Plenary Award Lecture, and then two groups of 6-8 parallel platform sessions in the afternoons, with concurrent poster sessions morning and afternoon; 93 parallel sessions in all, plus 4 Plenary Lecture sessions, and 4 poster sessions. These included a broad range of topics germane to the ISER Sections: Lens (LE; 15 sessions); Glaucoma (GL; 15 sessions); Retinal Cell Biology (RC; 11 sessions); Immunology & Inflammation (IM; 5 sessions); Refraction & Physiological Optics (RF; 2 sessions); Retinal Neuroscience (RN; 12 sessions); Physiology & Pharmacology (PH; 12 sessions); Cornea & Ocular Surface (CO; 12 sessions); Strabismus & Amblyopia (SA; 3 sessions); and Ophthalmic Pathology (OP; 4 sessions). In addition, there was a dedicated platform session specifically for Young Investigators, as well as a session sponsored by EVER (European Vision & Eye Research). A total of 960 abstracts were submitted; this represents nearly a 25% increase in abstract submissions over those submitted for the 2010 Biennial Meeting in Montreal. Of these, 853 presentations made it into the final program, including 532 platform and 321 poster presentations. Notably, almost every platform session included a Young Investigator as a speaker. To my knowledge, there is no other professional society where the oral presentations so outnumber the poster presentations, and none where Young Investigators are given such a high profile for their presentations. This highlights one of the core concepts of ISER:  to facilitate and promote the careers of Young Investigators in eye and vision research. The abstracts from the 2012 Biennial Meeting can be accessed online at:

For me, besides the excellent scientific presentations, two things stood out as memorable: the special tribute to Dr. Endre Balazs, a founder and ongoing supporter of ISER, immediately prior to the Endre A. Balazs Award Lecture (masterfully presented by Dr. Gerard Lutty, from the Wilmer Eye Institute), and the gala dinner at Zur Nolle Restaurant. Dr. Joe Hollyfield, a former President and longtime member of ISER, gave a wonderfully personalized and historic overview of Dr. Balazs' life in medicine and science, highlighting his multiple contributions to ophthalmology and our understanding of extracellular matrix biology. On behalf of ISER, I presented Dr. Balazs with a plaque and crystal trophy, commemorating the event. The gala dinner was truly an experience; in addition to the classically German cuisine (which was quite good), there was a Marlena Dietrich impersonator, plus an excellent jazz trio for entertainment. In addition, ISER also honored Dr. Janet Denlinger (Dr. Balazs' wife) at the gala, for her numerous and sustaining contributions to ISER over the years, with a commemorative plaque as well. A great time was had by all.

Speaking of great times, there are some great times ahead for ISER. At the Council Meeting that immediately preceded the ISER Biennial Meeting, the ISER Council voted to pursue the idea of holding smaller, topically focused (Gordon Conference style) meetings in the "off" (odd-numbered) years between the Biennial meetings. It was decided that these meetings will be held in the Fall, in Sarasota, Florida (a bit of nostalgia for attendees of ARVO meetings past).  Be on the lookout for further announcements concerning "The ISER 2013 Sarasota Symposium".  In addition, we are already gearing up for the 2014 ISER Biennial Meeting, which will be held July 20-24 in San Francisco. Check the ISER webpage and future issues of this Newsletter for further updates regarding this meeting in the months ahead.

Finally, as part of the recently adopted revisions to the ISER Bylaws, we have created a new Council position, specifically for inclusion of a Young Investigator on the ISER Council. Nominations for the Young Investigator (YI) Councilor position were solicited September 1-24 of this year, and an election to fill the position will be forthcoming soon. The YI Councilor will work to increase ISER membership, particularly of YIs, and to address the needs of YI members of ISER. The YI Councilor also will assist in the selection of travel awardees, as well as help to organize YI-directed activities at ISER-sponsored meetings as well as other suitable venues. The YI Councilor also will be a de facto member of the ISER Membership Committee. The term for the first person elected to this position begins January 1, 2013 and ends December 31, 2014. This is a great opportunity for Young Investigators to both share their experience and gain from that of fellow ISER members! View a detailed description of this position.

On behalf of the ISER Council, I encourage all ISER members to participate actively in the functions of the organization, to seek out involvement in the governance structure, and to encourage other scientists to join our society. If you do this, you will truly help us achieve our motto: "making a world of difference in eye research."  At this writing, as the leaves of the trees in Western New York (where I live) start to take on their myriad Fall colors, I wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous remainder of 2012.


Steven J. Fliesler, PhD
ISER President

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M. Christine McGahan, PhD

M. Christine McGahan, PhD

Summary of Bylaws Changes

As a result of decisions made at the ISER Strategic Planning Committee held in May of 2011, major changes in the Governance structure of ISER were proposed and accepted at the XX ISER Biennial Meeting held in Berlin, Germany in 2012. This is a summary of changes made. The details can be found in the full version of the new Bylaws on the ISER website.

  • The size of the Council was deemed to be too large for the size of the organization, with 14 members of Council + 6 more on the Membership Committee (while the Membership Committee is non-voting, they have traditionally been invited to Council meetings). The size of the Council + Membership Committee as well as the fact that there were no specific duties assigned to most of the 20 people in these positions were the key issues that were addressed in the changes made.

  • It was decided that there were redundancies in representation with 1 Vice-President/1-3 Councilors and 2 Membership Committee members from each of 3 global geographic areas. Therefore, the Councilor positions and Membership Committee will not be renewed at the end of current terms. However, in order to maintain adequate global representation, a second VP from each region will be added. The regions that best represent our society have been designated as Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific.

  • Two additional positions were created that address specific needs of the Society, Meeting Liaison (to address the changes that have taken place with Council now closely working on meeting organization) and Young Investigator.

  • In order to reach new goals and improve our ability to achieve our mission, a committee structure was devised in which all members of Council and volunteers from the society will participate. Four committees were established:

    • Meeting Coordination Committee
    • Young Investigator/Membership Committee
    • Communication Committee
    • Fundraising Committee

  • The transition plan is simple, as stated above, positions designated to be eliminated will end at the current term end-date. When all of the changes are completely made (Dec. 31, 2015) there will be 12 members of Council, and all members will have a number of specific roles in Governance of the society.

We are hopeful that the changes that are in process will create an active and involved stream-lined Council which will further improve our vibrant Society.

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Save the Date!

2013 Sarasota Symposium - Sept 29-Oct 2

We are delighted to invite you to the ISER 2013 Sarasota Symposium taking place September 29–October 2, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, Florida, USA. Join us for innovative scientific program focused on Molecular Mechanisms in Glaucoma. For more information on this meeting please visit our website.

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ISER Mentor Program

ISER is proud to announce the launch of the ISER Mentor Program. This new initiative offers additional benefits of membership to Young Investigators. Gain from the collective wisdom of those who have been successful in vision research.

A panel of leading scientists and clinicians involved in vision and ophthalmology research at various stages of their careers, and representing a diverse range of research expertise and geographical and gender spread, are poised to offer their time and advice on career advancement. This is an opportunity to obtain advice beyond your institutional colleagues/boundaries on matters such as inter-institutional and international collaborations, manuscript and grant writing/reviewing opportunities, how to become a successful clinician-scientist, research tools and methods, strategies for improving your skill set, as well as other topics related to your professional development.

For more information or to sign up as a mentor or mentee please visit our website or contact us

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ISER XX Biennial Meeting – Berlin, Germany

Thank you to all who attended and participated in the 20th ISER Biennial Meeting, July 21-25, 2012 in Berlin, Germany!

This year's Biennial Meeting was the largest in ISER's 40-year history. Well over 1,000 attendees from 53 countries around the world attended the meeting and participated in the timely and informative platform sessions and poster presentations. The meeting was widely praised for its outstanding scientific program content. ISER 2012 brought into focus the latest information regarding the structure and function of eye tissues in health and disease. The ISER organizers are committed to offering a host of acclaimed speakers to provide cutting edge updates and novel insights on these topics. Please join us for the next ISER meeting in San Francisco July 20-24, 2014.

2012 Meeting Abstracts are available online here or PDF format is available here.


Paul Kay, MD

A Young Investigators Perspective: First time participant at ISER meeting, Berlin, July 2012

by Dr Paul Kay, postdoctoral researcher

Department of Eye and Vision Science, Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, University of Liverpool

It is a privilege to make a contribution to the ISER newsletter, in a new section that will hopefully become a regular feature. On this occasion, I have decided to share my experience of attending my first ISER Biennial meeting.

As a newcomer to this exciting field, I attended my first two vision research meetings this year. The first of these was ARVO in May, followed by the ISER Biennial meeting in July. I thoroughly enjoyed both of these meetings, and at ARVO I realised the sheer size and scope of research being carried out in the field. However, one of the main strengths of this meeting was ironically one of its biggest drawbacks, at least from the perspective of a young investigator. The size of the meeting was quite overwhelming for a first time attendee, and I was rarely able to attend a presentation/poster of interest without missing at least one other equally relevant presentation occurring simultaneously. The number of people present also often made it difficult to engage in any meaningful interaction with other attendees. ISER offered me an experience that was the exact opposite to this in almost every way.

Berlin provided the perfect setting for this much smaller, more intimate meeting. At ISER I was able to attend every talk in every session of relevance to my own project, and still have time to view any posters of interest and talk with authors. Many of the platform presentations were delivered by leaders in the field, allowing me to put faces to the names I see on the journal articles I read. There were also countless opportunities to speak directly with these more senior researchers, often over coffee, lunch or dinner. Some of these interactions are already leading to the forging of new collaborations between our group here at Liverpool (Ocular Molecular Biology and Mechanisms of Disease, group leader Dr Luminita Paraoan), and other groups worldwide, or to the strengthening of previous partnerships. I'm very hopeful that these collaborations will lead to new opportunities, as well as increased access to both knowledge and facilities for our research group, and more personally, for my own project.

Most of the sessions I attended featured talks presented by fellow young investigators, at a similar stage in their career as myself. The standard of work carried out by these researchers was exceptional, and many projects were very similar to my own. Witnessing these researchers facing problems similar to those I face myself, solving them, and producing research of such quality has proven a highly motivating factor for me, and surely any other aspiring researcher in the field.

When reading the ISER newsletter in April, I couldn’t help but notice the section in which Steve Fliesler, current President of ISER, wrote about his first experience at the Biennial Meeting. I realise that much of what I have written here echo his experiences in 1984. I can only hope that my experience at ISER, and the potential partnerships forged at my first meeting can lead me on a similar professional trajectory. I am now looking forward to 2014, when I will hopefully attend my second ISER meeting, and build on the foundations set this year.

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Dues Renewal

With 2013 just around the corner, please remember to pay your 2013 ISER dues. You can do so by logging into the My Profile section of the ISER website, or by mailing payments to:

The International Society for Eye Research
PO Box 193940
San Francisco, CA 94119

Member benefits include:

  • Affordable dues
  • Substantially reduced registration fees for ISER meetings
  • Reduced subscription rate for ISER's official journal, Experimental Eye Research
  • Free color in Experimental Eye Research
  • Publishing opportunities
  • Research prizes

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Lab Profile


Henry Klassen, MD, PhD

Stem Cell and Retinal Regeneration Program, Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, University of California, Irvine

Research in the Stem Cell and Retinal Regeneration Program at UC Irvine is directed toward the development of novel therapies for retinal degenerative diseases, specifically including retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age related macular degeneration (AMD). The primary approach being pursued is the transplantation of human retinal progenitor cells (hRPCs), a stem-like cell found in the immature retina. These cells can be isolated from tissue and propagated in culture. Studies in animal models of retinal disease have shown that RPCs are capable of replacing retinal cell types, while also rescuing host cells that would otherwise die as a result of the disease process. Another important characteristic of these cells is that they tend to be non-immunogenic when transplanted to unrelated recipients within the same species. RPCs are well tolerated as allografts to the retina and do not require exogenous immune suppression. Current efforts are directed at preclinical studies in which clinical grade human cells are grown and tested for use in future trials, pending FDA approval. Work in the Klassen laboratory is currently investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying therapeutic efficacy. Active translational projects being carried out with collaborating laboratories at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, UCSB and UCD include proof of concept studies, GMP cell manufacturing, and in vivo toxicology. The work is progressing rapidly towards the clinic and has been supported by a number of institutions, particularly the Lincy Foundation and the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

This Lab Profile was submitted by Henry Klassen, MD, PhD, Director of the Stem Cell and Retinal Regeneration Program, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute and Stem Cell Research Center, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA

If you would like to submit a Lab Profile for a future ISER Eyes on The World issue, please email

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