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New UCL-Poland partnership to advance the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases

UCL's Institute of Ophthalmology and the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences have formed a research partnership to develop international scientific communities to combat blindness in an ageing society.

The formal agreement will establish UCL’s collaboration with the Warsaw-based International Centre for Translational Eye Research (ICTER), a multi-investigator institution for eye research, with a research focus on imaging and biochemical approaches to support advances in understanding the etiology and treatment of eye diseases which cause blindness.

Two world-class scientists, Professor Krzysztof Palczewski and Professor Maciej Wojtkowski will lead the partnership in Poland, while Professor Andrew Dick, Director of UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, will chair the international steering committee.

Five independent ICTER research groups will collaborate on identifying candidate therapies that minimise the consequences of eye diseases, including cataract, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. ICTER scientists will come from various backgrounds, spanning physical optics, biochemistry, biophysics, pharmacology, medical device design, and drug delivery.

The objectives of this new partnership include improving the treatment of complex human diseases by modulating interactive biochemical signal transduction pathways through G protein-couple receptors (GPCRs), introducing innovative automated medical instrumentation to support the treatment of eye diseases, and advancing our understanding of molecular mechanisms responsible for the dynamics, plasticity and adaptability of retinal tissue.

Professor Andrew Dick, Director of the Institute of Ophthalmology, said: “We are delighted to form this partnership with ICTER especially at such a crucial time in the UK. It provides us with a great opportunity to strengthen our international engagement and enhance the quality of our research through meaningful collaborations.

Together with Moorfields, the Institute currently produces translational research in regenerative medicine, artificial intelligence and innovative treatments for eye diseases, so it is indeed wonderful to be able to combine our expertise with ICTER’s expertise in pharmacology and optical engineering in order to drive forward our mission of delivering world-class ophthalmic research and training.”

Professor Maciej Wojtkowski, Chair of the International Centre for Translational Eye Research, said: “As the existing Physical Optics and Biophotonics Group, we already have a solid eye-related scientific track record in the area of non-invasive imaging and novel experimental techniques. However, by taking our activities to the next level and forming such a specialised scientific centre we will be facing a completely new type of challenge in terms of both development and management strategy so input from much more experienced staff of a world-renown institution is essential.

We expect to establish a regular platform for organisational knowledge transfer with UCL and we hope to gain from it as much understanding related to running a successful research unit as it is possible.”

Professor Krzysztof Palczewski, Scientific Advisor of the International Centre for Translational Eye Research, said: “We live longer than ever before and our developed societies are ageing. The number of people suffering from visual problems often ending in blindness is terrifying and only expected to rise in the near future, completely destroying the quality life we would like to live. By studying the unexplored fundamentals of human vision mechanism on the molecular level we want to turn this tendency around and offer humanity a long-awaited cure. We may be very close to it. The orchestrated work of physicists, biologists, pharmacologists and other wonderful people I can see around me in this initiative has a real potential of changing the lives of many.”

Some of the other UCL/Moorfields researchers involved in the international scientific committee at ICTER are Professor Alison Hardcastle, Professor Chris Dainty and Dr Pearse Keane.