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Hands across the sea to fight inflammatory eye diseases

Press release issued: 28 May 2012

Two of the world’s most prestigious eye health research institutions in Britain and America have joined forces to study and combat some of the most common eye diseases.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol, has entered into a Consortium agreement with the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the American National Institutes of Health.

The Consortium was formally launched on 22 May during a visit hosted by Professor Peng Tee Khaw, Director of Research and Development, Moorfields Eye Hospital.  He is also the director of the BRC and President of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).

He said: “It was a tremendous pleasure to meet our distinguished American friends and colleagues. We are all convinced that the Consortium agreement we have made to promote human ocular immunology, specifically to encourage the transfer of technologies, scholars and biomaterials for the study of uveitis, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, will greatly enhance our efforts to better understand and combat these common and often devastating eye diseases.”

Professor Andrew Dick, Faculty Research Director in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Bristol and Theme Lead for Inflammation and Immunotherapy at the NIHR Moorfields BRC, said:  “This Consortium truly combines transatlantic research excellence to deliver cutting-edge advances in the fight against inflammatory eye diseases.”

Dr Richard Lee, NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Ophthalmology at Bristol Eye Hospital and the University of Bristol and at the NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre added: “This is an unprecedented opportunity to bring British and American patients together.”

Representing the US NEI were Dr Gyan Prakash, Associate Director International Programs at the NEI and Dr Robert Nussenblatt, Chief of the Laboratory of Immunology, NEI.

Dr Russell Hamilton, Director of Research and Development at the UK Department of Health also welcomed the agreement. The party also toured and inspected the state-of-the-art facilities and equipment at the NIHR Research and Treatment Centre.


Further information

The Moorfields Eye Hospital/UCL Institute of Ophthalmology NIHR Biomedical Research Centre is a partnership between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. Established in April 2007 and awarded a second five-year term by the NIHR from April 2012, its purpose is to conduct 'translational research' that is designed to take advances in basic medical research from the laboratory to the clinic, enabling patients to benefit more quickly from new scientific breakthroughs. Our centre is currently one of 11 biomedical research centres that were awarded in 2007 to NHS/university partnerships with an outstanding international reputation for medical research and expertise, and experience of translating that research into the clinical setting.

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the world’s leading eye hospitals, providing expertise in clinical care, research and education. We have provided excellence in eye care for more than 200 years and we continue to be at the forefront of new breakthroughs and developments. We are an integral part of one of the UK’s first academic health science centres, UCL Partners, and were one of the first organisations to become an NHS foundation trust in 2004.

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is one of the foremost eye and vision research institutes in the world. It operates at the cutting-edge of translational research, delivering new therapies, diagnostic tools and preventive measures to patients suffering from visual impairment or blinding conditions. The combination of the Institute’s research resource with Moorfields Eye Hospital, which has the largest ophthalmic patient population in the Western World, opens the way for advances in vision research. The Institute is a recipient of a Queen's Anniversary Prize (Jubilee awards) for Higher and Further Education, in recognition of outstanding research excellence.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world-class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading-edge research focused on the needs of patients.

Ophthalmology research at the University of Bristol Bristol is one of the leading eye centres in the country. It has research laboratories in the University of Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and in the Bristol Eye Hospital, a purpose built modern specialty hospital. The largest national eye bank is based at the hospital.

Ophthalmology research in Bristol is committed to providing a first class environment in which health care, education, clinical and laboratory research can be conducted simultaneously. Research is focussed on the improvement in future health care that relies heavily on the implementation of basic science advances and transfer of laboratory acquired knowledge to the clinic.

The research within the Academic Unit of Ophthalmology is supported by the University of Bristol’s School of Clinical Sciences within the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and also within the infection and immunity theme of the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in the Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences.

Bristol Eye Hospital is one of the country's leading specialist hospitals with an international reputation for the treatment of diseases of the eye, and highly respected as a pioneer in research, education and clinical practice.

The hospital has 24 ophthalmic consultants, supported by a wide range of staff including orthoptists, optometrists, pharmacists and nurse practitioners.

The University Of Bristol Department Of Ophthalmology is attached to the hospital and leads its field in research into eye disease and the development of new treatments. The hospital also houses one of only two corneal transplant banks in England. The hospital has been in the forefront of development in ophthalmology including the use of extended role nurses, innovative schemes for the long-term management of glaucoma patients, day case cataract surgery and numerous other fields.

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