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The EVI-Genoret Interview

with Prof. Josè Sahel

Prof. José Sahel
Image Prof. José Sahel
  • The European Vision Research Community before and after EVI-GENORET: What does the project change in the community?

By reviewing the European research efforts during the last years to advance our understanding in the diverse fields of vision research it seemed quite obvious that there was an urgent need for a European coordinated approach. Besides national and local approaches to support researchers and clinicians, a European synergistic approach seemed more than ever necessary to underline the benefits of European collaborations vs. national fragmentation.  EVI-GENORET, the largest consortium ever funded by the EC exemplifies such a synergistic approach. During the lifespan of this project, existing collaborations have been strengthened and new collaborative sub project have been initiated thereby demonstrating that EVI-GENORET has played a clue role in structuring and promoting the European Vision Research Community.

  • In your opinion, does EVI-GENORET represent a "destination, where european vision research has to be" or rather an "intermediate station"?

Equipped with the EVI-GENORET database, researchers will be more effective in  translating such findings into an improved classification of disease in both clinical and molecular terms, to identify novel therapeutic targets and to devise more effective drug-delivery systems that selectively target defective photoreceptors, for example. Therefore, in my opinion EVI-GENORET represents an intermediate station. In the future, more SMEs and/or pharmaceutical companies should be more directly involved in this kind of project in order to accelerate the transfert of new therapeutical approaches to the bedside. This program has established both the spirit and the tools for the next steps, namely system biology of vision and innovative care.

  • The ageing population, with all its implications is actually a big issue for Europe. This will surely also raise the awareness of age related visual handicaps: is this a chance for vision research to become a priority for the European Commision? If yes or no, why?

Indeed ageing population across Europe is a fact and therefore supporting research in the field of Vision should be a priority for the EC. This condition is among the most feared disabilities among EU citizens and is at least as prevalent as Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover perceptive impairment resulting from seeing or hearing disorders is a very strong risk factor for cognitive loss, dependence, depression and falls.

  • Retina International is a patient organisation and it is also a partner of the EVI-GENORET consortium, how important is its role and in which way?

Building relationships with patient organizations is fundamentally the most important component of information dissemination for patients. These organizations, such as Retina International,  know where the patients are located and what types of diseases are prevalent in their geographical area.  Without this useful information, the tracking of patients for clinical studies, treatment and basic educational materials relating to their diseases would be quite cumbersome and inefficient.

  • "EURO-HEAR meets EVI-GENORET" is this the new way to a "next station" or was only a "blind date"? :-)

This was a major founding event. Both fields need to be supported but they also share mechanisms, targets , and consequences of diseases can combine and lead to devastating consequences. We felt reassured that high level EC members expressed in person their understanding of the challenge at stake and the need for a concerted EU approach.