Pre-Conference Workshop Day

Tuesday March 19 2024

8:15 am Morning Refreshments & Registration

Workshop A

Developing Robust & Translatable In Vivo Models for Retinal Vascular Disorders to Better Replicate the Human Retinal Vascular Environment

  • TJ Hollingsworth Assistant Professor, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Monica Jablonski Founder & Chief Scientific Officer, Tavo Biotherapeutics


Finding the appropriate in vivo models can be a challenge for any disease indication, but developing these models for retinal vascular disorders poses a completely new set of hurdles. Due to the lack of animal models with similar physiology as the human retinal vascular system, it can be complicated to test safety and efficacy in preclinical settings before moving on to clinical trials. Moving forward, it is vital for the field to have accurate in vivo models to replicate the blood-retinal barrier consisting of microvascular endothelial cells, pericytes and barrier permeability for better translatability of drugs for retinal vascular diseases.

Here’s what you can learn by joining this workshop:

  • Bridging the gap in knowledge between retinal and macular vasculature in animal models such as rats, mice, rabbits and monkeys, and human retinal vascular system • Discussing the required criteria for in vivo models to leverage safety data for successful translation into phase I clinical trials for Wet AMD
  • Advantages and disadvantages of using models with laser-induced geographic atrophy which results in choroidal neovascularization
  • Tackling the challenges of developing in vivo models for DR and DME to replicate the polygenic environment
  • Developing in vivo models mimicking interactions between retinal microvascular endothelial cells and pericytes for accurate representation of wet AMD
  • Finding appropriate animal models of Wet AMD vs DME vs DR to test target pathways for each disease pathology

10:45 am Morning Networking Break

Workshop B

Developing Durable Drug Formulations & Less Invasive Delivery Mechanisms to the Retina for Improved Patient Compliance


Many challenges arise when developing therapies for Wet AMD, DME, DR & RVO as therapeutics are aimed to be administered every 2-4 weeks. Due to the aging patient population, this creates burden on patients, their care takers as well as healthcare systems. The industry is moving towards the ultimate goal of developing drugs with longer lasting efficacy that don’t need to be delivered through intravitreal injections as frequently, therefore, reducing patient concerns.

Join this workshop to:

  • Discuss the current unmet medical need with developing less invasive retinal delivery administration routes such as topical drugs for diabetic retinopathy and DME
  • Different mechanisms of action for topical drugs how to extend drug half-life to achieve slow-release formulation and reduce injections into the retina and uncover how to increase dosage within narrow therapeutic window while achieving safety and efficacy
  • Leverage lessons from Genentech’s Port Delivery System (PDS) for Wet AMD to pave the way forward for refillable sustained release implants
  • Discussing the potential of anti-VEGF gene therapy as a one-time treatment and the translational challenges when treating retinal neovascularization
  • Developing biodegradable sustained release implants to reduce injection frequency to once every six months
  • Discussing how to reduce the risk of retinal detachment and inflammation caused by injections whilst improving patient compliance and reducing patient burden on healthcare systems

1:00 pm Lunch & Networking Break

Workshop C

Evaluating Anti-VEGF Non-Responders in Large Portions of Patient Populations & Treating Underlying Diseases to Prevent Disease Progression into Wet AMD, DME, DR & RVO Patients

  • Claudio Punzo Associate Professor; Vice Chair of Research, University of Massachusetts
  • Mark Nelson Assistant Professor - Ophthalmology, Wake Forest Baptist Health
  • Stephen Poor Executive Director & Head of Global Program Clinical, Novartis


For the past 20 years, the VEGF pathway has been the most exploited and researched therapeutic target for retinal vascular diseases. For majority of the patient population, targeting this pathway with anti-VEGF antibodies has been successful, however, a large portion of patients remain untreated due to anti-VEGF resistance.

Join your peers as they discuss:

  • Uncovering a better understanding of the underlying pathology, such as geographic atrophy and transition to Wet AMD, diabetic retinopathy and diabetes, when treating Wet AMD and DME to stop progression of disease
  • Catering for the vast majority of patients with retinal vascular disorders who have developed immune resistance to anti-VEGF treatment and remain untreated
  • Improving current anti-VEGF therapy to counter anti-VEGF drug resistance amongst the large proportion of patients with Wet AMD and DME
  • Factoring in aging processes when developing preclinical models to reduce the risk of communitive damage
  • Preventing retinal fibrosis, loss of retinal cells and inevitable loss of visual function by treating underlying disease processes to stop the progression to Wet AMD and DME
  • Early detection of non-proliferative atrophy stages in patients at a higher risk of progression into vision loss and macular degeneration

3:30 pm End of Pre-Conference Workshop Day