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Event report: NIHR Clinical Research Network Ophthalmology Symposium, ARVO 2018, Honolulu, USA

22 October 2018

Following a successful inaugural event in 2017, the second annual National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Ophthalmology Clinical Research Network symposium was held at the recent Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) conference in Honolulu, USA. This was an event to promote international research collaboration with UK sites, showcasing the wealth of opportunities for clinical research within the NHS, and highlighting 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. He and Faruque Ghanchi, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Bradford, commenced the session with a brief introduction to the scope of NIHR-led research within the NHS, the impressive rates of recruitment achieved at UK research sites and outcomes of projects completed within the Clinical Research Network. Presentations followed from representatives of the USA Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (, explaining the organisation of the network and how this has facilitated large-scale research projects in diabetic eye disease and medical retina across the USA, and Bayer, who discussed successful commercial collaborations within the UKCRN.

Next followed a series of presentations from Professor Sobha Sivaprasad, Professor Robert MacLaren and Mr Pearse Keane, each discussing their own experience of NIHR-supported clinical research within the NHS and giving examples of successful collaborations between the NIHR and external commercial and academic organisations. Robert Barry, NIHR Clinical Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, then discussed the scope of trainee-led research networks in the UK and how these may facilitate data collection from clinical sites across the UK.

Finally, Douglas Jabs, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, Mount Sinai Medical School (New York, USA), gave 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.

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. It thus appears that the NHS and NIHR remain 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 ST6 Ophthalmology

University of Birmingham and West Midlands Deanery