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ISER Eyes on the World -- Newsletter from the International Society for Eye Research
M. Christine McGahan, PhD

President's Message

Dear Members,

Another year comes to a close and gives us time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. ISER leadership has been busy with working on a new Strategic Plan which will be finalized in 2020. We have continued with our off-year meeting, holding the third one in October of this year at the Emory University Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a highly successful meeting that was co-sponsored by ISER and Bright Focus Foundation and was entitled "Concepts and Breakthroughs in Glaucoma." The Program was developed by Dan Stamer, Ross Ethier, and Rob Nickells. There were 225 attendees and was a sold-out meeting. The meeting had a great cohort of outstanding keynote speakers including Ursula Schlötzer-Schrehardt, Adriana Di Polo, Paul Kaufman, Felipe Medeiros, Ted Acott, and Budd Tucker. We have begun discussions regarding another off-year meeting in 2021, which would be co-sponsored again by ISER and BrightFocus Foundation.

Now we look forward to our next biennial meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 25-29, 2020 which is being organized by Nicholas and Haydee Bazan. The scientific organization of the meeting is already underway. This will be held in the same hotel, The Hilton Buenos Aires, as the meeting we had there in 2006. This was a terrific venue and a really great city for this meeting, which was one of our most successful. Please save the dates and look for announcements for travel award applications and other important information.

We have just had elections for 3 Council positions and the results are as follows: 

Vice President, Americas: Claire Mitchell, PhD
Vice President, Asia-Pacific: Paul Donaldson, PhD
Vice President, Europe: Luminita Paraoan, PhD

It is exciting to have these additions to the Council and I look forward to working with them to the benefit of the Society.

Finally, we continue to work with K.I.T. Group to organize our biennial meetings and are currently investigating a site for the 2022 meeting. We are in the rotation of returning to the Pacific Rim for this meeting and the Council decided at the last meeting to hold the meeting in Australia. Previously, ISER held a very successful meeting in Sydney in 2004. 

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year and I look forward to seeing everyone in Buenos Aires next year.
Olaf Strauss, PhD

Meeting Liaison Report

On October 26th the ISER/BrightFocus Glaucoma Symposium had its final day at the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Again, the meeting can look back on a great success. It becomes more and more evident that this meeting establishes a “jour fixe” for glaucoma researchers and clinicians in the annual meeting calendars. The numbers speak for themselves: 152 attendees at the pre-meeting event, the BrightFocus Glaucoma Fast Track, and 225 attendees at the main Symposium. The concept appears to be successful. The Fast Track Meeting represents a unique possibility for young investigators to learn the cutting-edge knowledge of glaucoma research given by talks from experts in the field. The main meeting itself generates a think tank that is composed of symposia orientated at the latest important developments in the field, supported by plenary lectures. Poster sessions foster exchange between senior scientists and young investigators. 33 young investigators received a travel fellowship, an instrument that helps to maintain young gifted scientists in the field. We have to thank the trio of organizers: W. Daniel Stamer, Rob Nickels and C. Ross Ethier who not only made the actual meeting a success but also established the ground for the ISER/BrightFocus Glaucoma Symposium to become more and more an “institution” in the meeting calendars. At the side of the organizer trio, we thank the committee co-chairs Abbott Clark and John C. Morrison who organized the Fast Track workshop. Another important base for the symposium’s success is the excellent and fruitful collaboration of ISER with BrightFocus Foundation. We have to thank Diane Bovenkamp and Stacey Pagos Hiller for being at ISER’s side with support that is by far more than financial.

For those who could not attend, the program book is available online.

2020 will be the year of the next ISER Biennial Meeting in Buenos Aires (October 25th – 29th). Together with the Topic Organizers, the Local Organizers Haydee and Nicolas Bazan have already worked forward the scientific program that is almost finished (90% done) and will be published at the congress homepage soon. We have to thank all the Topic and Session organizers who did a tremendous job.

Abstract Submission will start in January 2020. Please be aware to check for invited talks, and young investigators should be prepared to apply for travel fellowships. For those who want to stay in the meeting hotel, the Hilton Buenos Aires, please check for the rooms offered by ISER. You will find the homepage of the meeting here:

Please note that those attendees who plan to come and are not invited speakers still have a chance to be included in the oral sessions. The Session Organizers are instructed to leave one slot free in every session plan that should be filled with a talk from a submitted regular abstract.

As part of ISER’s mission, we will have a broad spectrum of activities for young investigators. One is the aforementioned possibility to receive a young investigator's travel fellowship. In addition, we will highlight the best posters at the beginning of one of the plenary lectures and award these contributions with poster prizes. Young investigator social activities will include a dinner evening and a special welcome at the welcome reception; additional information will be made available via social media. 

I am looking forward to meeting you in Buenos Aires in 2020! Until then I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Secretary's Report

Frank Lovicu, PhD, FARVO

When many of our membership think of ISER, they mostly think about the major dynamic, international meetings we host every two years around the globe, with the most recent being in Belfast, N. Ireland in 2018, and the next in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2020. Between these meetings, we do host smaller specialist meetings, such as the recently successful one on Glaucoma, held in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. With these meetings many of our members refresh their annual dues, but unfortunately, when they miss a meeting, our membership numbers dip for that year. Our very affordable membership dues do not only entitle you to cheaper registration to attend our meetings but have so many other benefits: These include regular newsletters on our eye research community activities, reduced journal subscription to Experimental Eye Research, as well as free color printing when publishing in Experimental Eye Research, access to our mentor program, eligibility for major research prizes and travel awards, but most importantly a voice for how we can improve and grow our Society for our membership. We have a great cast of volunteers that serve as your representatives on different ISER committees. These members manage everything from our communications, membership, fundraising and young investigator program, ably led by our executive members who keep track of future meeting organization, our accounts and overlook the running of ISER. We are fortunate to have such a committed society, and with your ongoing support we can grow and give much more back to our international eye research community.

With the start of our newly elected Vice-Presidents in 2020, we fondly thank and applaud our departing VPs for their successful terms with ISER over the last three years, including Prof. Ki-Joo (VP Asia-Pacific), Prof. Semina (VP Americas) who chaired our Membership Committee, and Prof. Quinlan (VP Europe), who not only co-organized the Belfast meeting but was actively involved in revamping our Mentor program that should be ready for intake in 2020. We wish them all well and look forward to their ongoing support of the society. On this note, we reflect on a busy and productive year and we look forward to 2020 where we will come together in Buenos Aires for what is already looking to be a great program.

Wishing you all a very happy start to the new year, and a safe and relaxing break.

Young Investigator Report

Nilisha Fernando, PhD

Hello ISER Young Investigators! It has been wonderful to serve the ISER community during 2019, and I am looking forward to an exciting year ahead with many activities planned for our Young Investigators. Together with the ISER Young Investigator Committee (Tirthankar Sinha, Daisy Shu, Sandra Hammer, Ebrahim Aboualizadeh, Yannis Paulus and Joshua Chu-Tan), we are putting together an exciting line-up of professional development activities and social events for Young Investigators at the ISER Biennial Meeting to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina (25-29 October 2020). All Young Investigators are encouraged to submit an abstract and apply for a travel grant to support your attendance at this meeting.

During the next ARVO Annual Meeting to be held in Baltimore (3-7 May 2020), we will be holding a breakfast networking session for ISER Young Investigator members during the conference. It is a great opportunity to meet your fellow Young Investigators before the Biennial Meeting later in the year. We will be sending out an email closer to the date to register for this event – please come along and join your peers over a coffee! In addition, each Young Investigator will be invited to bring along one early-career non-member to join in our breakfast networking session. We look forward to seeing you all there!

As always, if you have any suggestions or feedback that may benefit our Young Investigators, please send these through to me for consideration by the committee ( I look forward to serving the ISER community again in 2020.
Steven J. Fliesler, PhD

Editor's Message

As of this writing (mid-December 2019), we’ve received 807 manuscript submissions in calendar 2019, which surpasses last year’s submission total. Our acceptance rate of submitted manuscripts has been approximately 59% in 2019 to date, which is comparable to our historic average acceptance rate. As previously reported, the trend has continued with the majority of new submissions originating in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly China. Also, as has been the trend over the past year, manuscripts submitted to the Retina and Vascular Biology Section and the Cornea and Lens Section account for more than two-thirds of the total submissions. The current 5-year impact factor (IF) for the journal is 3.272.

With regard to changes in the Editorial Board, Holly Rosenzweig (Executive Editor; Oregon Health Sciences University) has retired from the Board. We are currently searching for a suitable replacement to handle manuscripts in her general area of expertise (ocular immunology). 

The following Special Issues are nearing completion and should be finalized within the next few months: Ocular Genetics: A Tribute to R. Rand Allingham (Guest Editors: Michael Hauser and Yutao Liu) has 11 articles posted online as of this writing (see Angiotensin II and Aldosterone: Co-conspirators in Ocular Physiology and Disease (Guest Editors: Jennifer Wilkinson-Berka and Francine Behar-Cohen) has 8 articles posted online currently (see The Special Issue on stem cell research pertinent to the eye (Guest Editor: Wei Li, Xiamen University) is in progress. Very recently, Steven Wilson (Cole Eye Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and former Editorial Board member) has approached the journal with a proposal to create a multi-Special Issue series of Review Articles pertinent to the global topics of corneal biology, pathobiology, and disease intervention. It is anticipated that the first set of articles in this series will be published by mid-2020. A complete listing of all the Special Issues available online may be found at

As always, if you have an idea for a new Special Issue, or a new Review Article, please contact Deborah A. Ferrington, our Reviews and Special Issues Editor (email: A listing of current and past Special Issues may be found at

Wishing all ISER members a very happy conclusion to 2019 and a prosperous and healthy 2020!

Kudos to ISER Members!

Joseph Bonanno and his team recently published a paper in Redox Biology titled “Ammonia sensitive SLC4A11 mitochondrial uncoupling reduces glutamine induced oxidative stress.”

The Gurevich Lab recently published a paper on modeling code transduction in PLOS ONE journal: “Multi-scale, numerical modeling of spatio-temporal signaling in cone phototransduction.”

Mary Marquart and her team recently published an article titled “A Transcriptional Activator of Ascorbic Acid Transport in Streptococcus Pneumoniae Is Required for Optimal Growth in Endophthalmitis in a Strain-Dependent Manner.”

Janice Vranka’s paper, “Mapping Molecular Differences and Extracellular Matrix Gene Expression in Segmental Outflow Pathways of the Human Ocular Trabecular Meshwork,” was among the top 10% most cited PLOS ONE papers published in 2015.

Featured Lab Profile

The McKay Lab, left to right, Nicole R. Congrove, Anna G. Figueroa, Sara Sillik, Brian S. McKay, and Rory Colvin-Morrison
The McKay Lab studies the relationship between pigmentation and vision. The two most common causes of irreversible blindness are Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma. The incidence or risk of both diseases is linked to race and pigmentation but in opposite ways. Those with darker pigmentation appear protected from AMD, but at the same time are at increased risk of developing glaucoma. 

Our research investigates the ocular pigmentation pathway to understand why these two diseases illustrate such strong racial biases. AMD and glaucoma both cause blindness because neurons in the retina die, interestingly however, the retinal neurons never express any of the pigmentation genes. The retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE) that function support of the neurosensory retina, express all of the genes of the pigmentation pathway, suggesting their involvement. In early studies, we concentrated efforts on one specific pigmentation gene because it was a potential orphan G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) because GPCRs are biological control points. We discovered that the ligand for this receptor (GPR143) is L-DOPA and that GPR143 activity increases RPE expression of the most potent neurotrophic factor in the eye - pigment epithelial-derived factor (PEDF), decreases RPE release of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) - which is the target of AMD therapy, and halts exosome release. Recently we investigated whether those taking L-DOPA for movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease, were protected from AMD. In this retrospective medical record analysis encompassing over 87 million individuals, we found that those prescribed L-DOPA were protected from ever getting AMD. Further, for those that did develop AMD while taking L-DOPA, the age of onset was delayed more than 8 years. Based on these positive results, we have partnered with several Tucson Clinicians to initiate prospective clinical trials to determine whether L-DOPA stops, prevents, and/or treats AMD. These FDA approved trials can be found at # NCT03022318 and NCT03023059. View our website »
If you would like to submit a Lab Profile for a future ISER Eyes on The World issue, please email

Featured Eye Photo

RGCs grown in vitro from human pluripotent stem cells express a significant amount of pre-synaptic SV2 puncta (White) within their neurites and cell body, with RGCs identified by BRN3B:tdTomato (Red).

Kirstin VanderWall
PhD Candidate, Department of Biology
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
Submit Your Photo

Administrative Update

Career Center

ISER members can post and view career opportunities on the ISER website. To request a career opportunity be posted on the ISER website, please email your request to the ISER Secretariat at Postings remain live for 90 days, or until the position has been filled. Visit the ISER Career Center for complete details.
Visit ISER Career Center

Lab Exchange Program

Several years ago, ISER launched an initiative called the ISER Lab Exchange Program. The purpose of this program is “to encourage and support students and young investigators entering the field of eye and vision research worldwide.”

The program is designed to facilitate exchanges of trainees, at any training level, between ISER member labs. By encouraging trainee exchanges, ISER helps trainees augment their skill sets, enable technology transfer among member labs, and expand the productivity of participating labs.

When Young Investigator members are interested in participating in this program, their supervising mentors collaborate and help facilitate sending their graduate students or postdoctoral fellows to the other’s laboratory. The laboratories assist with the associated travel and housing costs for their respective trainees. Upon completion of the program, participating trainees will receive complimentary ISER Biennial Meeting registration and a complimentary 2-year ISER membership. Their sponsors will receive one-half off of their ISER Biennial Meeting registration fee. Trainees will also be invited to present their collaborative research as either a paper or poster presentation at the upcoming meeting.

These inter-laboratory collaborations are extremely productive and successful! If you are a trainee or have a trainee that is interested in participating in this program, please contact the ISER office for more information. 

Membership Dues

Please pay your 2020 membership dues, if you have not already done so. You can pay online using a Visa, Mastercard or American Express.
Pay Dues Online
To pay by mail, please include your name and membership number on your check payable to ISER and send it to:
655 Beach Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Contact the ISER office if you have questions or need assistance.
ISER 2020 · Oct 25–29 · Buenos Aires, Argentina
ISER Officers:

President – Christine McGahan, PhD
Secretary – Frank Lovicu, PhD
Treasurer – Carol Toris, PhD
Meeting Liaison – Olaf Strauss, PhD
Vice-Presidents (Europe) – Roy Quinlan, PhD and Alan Stitt, PhD
Vice-Presidents (Asia-Pacific) – Choun-Ki Joo, MD, PhD and Takeshi Iwata, PhD
Vice-Presidents (Americas) – Elena Semina, PhD and Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, MD
Young Investigator Representative – Nilisha Fernando, PhD

Our mailing address is:
International Society for Eye Research
655 Beach St
San Francisco, CA USA 94109

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