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Event report: NIHR Clinical Research Network Ophthalmology Symposium, ARVO 2017, Baltimore, USA

31 May 2017

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) held a lunchtime meeting at the recent Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) conference in Baltimore, USA, to promote the UK as a site for international research collaboration. This was an event to showcase the wealth of opportunities for clinical research within the NHS, and highlight the invaluable support offered to research groups through the NIHR. Members of the international ophthalmic research community were invited to attend, including delegates from countries including the UK, USA, India, Singapore and Australia, along with industry representatives from companies including Bausch & Lomb and Novartis.

The event was hosted by Professor Rupert Bourne, chair of the NIHR Ophthalmology Clinical Research Network, who commenced the session with a brief introduction to the scope of NIHR-led research within the NHS. This was followed by a presentation from Faruque Ghanchi, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Bradford, who further discussed the role of the NIHR, organisation of the clinical research networks, and how this can specifically facilitate international research collaboration.

Douglas Jabs, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, Mount Sinai Medical School (New York, USA), spoke next, giving a personal insight of his positive experience of collaboration with the NIHR in delivery of the Multicentre Uveitis Steroid Treatment (MUST) trials. He explained that UK sites had proved highly efficient in achieving their recruitment targets, and expressed a strong desire to continue his collaboration with NHS eye departments for future research.

After a short break for lunch and networking, there were further presentations from Professor Sobha Sivaprasad, Mr Praveen Patel, Mr Philip Hykin and Professor Simon Harding, each discussing their own experiences of NIHR-supported clinical research within the NHS. Finally, Mr Richard Lee introduced Dr Henry Wiley, staff clinician at the National Eye Institute (NEI, Bethesda, Maryland, USA) to discuss his experience of collaboration with NHS sites in delivery of a randomised trail of bevacizumab and ranibizumab for diabetic macular oedema.

In the discussion that followed, delegates remarked that the potential size of patient cohorts accessible through the NHS, and the comprehensive level of support and guidance offered by the NIHR impressed them, and that such opportunities are often not present in their home countries. It thus appears that the NHS and NIHR are indeed attractive prospects to the international research community, and it is hoped that events such as this will encourage increased collaboration in the future.

Robert Barry
NIHR Clinical Lecturer and ST5 Ophthalmology
University of Birmingham and West Midlands Deanery