From Research to Reality
Introducing the winner of the ICO-Allergan Advanced Research Fellowship 2019
sponsored by Allergan
In 2018, the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) – the largest provider of fellowships globally – introduced a new program; the Advanced Research Fellowship, in partnership with Allergan. The scheme offered an unmissable opportunity for young clinician researchers: a $50,000 grant to support the recipient’s research at an institute of their choice for 12 months. The applications were classified according to sub-specialties – including cornea, retina, glaucoma and paediatric ophthalmology – each of which were judged by an expert panel. The Fellowship received applications from all over the world, with the inaugural grant going to Emilio Torres-Netto, in honor of his work on keratoconus in underserved populations.
Last month, the esteemed judging panel met again, this time at ARVO 2019 in Vancouver, Canada, to decide on another worthy winner. It took much deliberation, but the judges made their decision.
“There was not a single opposition to our chosen finalist,” says Berthold Seitz, Director of the Department of Ophthalmology at Saarland University Medical Center, Homburg/Saar, Germany, and Director of ICO Fellowships. “It was unanimously concluded by the six final jury members that this person had the best application, the best topic and the best overall package.”
So who was it? Seitz revealed that the application in question belonged to Matias Iglicki, a retinal surgeon and researcher from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. “It was the topic itself that fascinated us: telemedicine in the detection of diabetic retinopathy,” explains Seitz. “Tractive vitreoretinopathy – like any advanced stage diabetic retinopathy – can have devastating consequences. Iglicki clearly described how artificial intelligence can aid early detection and improve treatment outcomes for at-risk patients – both in Argentina and Israel, where he will complete his fellowship,” says Seitz.
Anat Loewenstein, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Tel Aviv Medical Center and Vice Dean at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, will act as Iglicki’s mentor over the next 12 months, as he and his team work to refine their detection algorithm. “Loewenstein will be able to offer the necessary insight and support to see this idea realized,” explains Seitz. “As clinicians, we have an understanding that companies do not – and this project exemplifies that. It is true investigator-driven science and once established, it can be implemented not only in Argentina, but worldwide.”
Iglicki commented: “I have been working on diabetic retinopathy and its diagnosis by telemedicine since 2004. Since winning a scholarship available to local researchers in Argentina, I have been trying to employ the latest technology to be able to run this program, but it has not been possible to achieve this goal in a developing country. This is why the ICO-Allergan Advanced Research Fellowship opens up an opportunity to continue this research project, which will also help with early detection of diabetic retinopathy in my home country.”
Iglicki will formally receive his award at the upcoming SOE Congress (June 13-16, 2019) in Nice, France. An interview with Iglicki – with more details of his prize-winning work – will be published in next month’s issue of The Ophthalmologist.
To find out more, go to www.icoph.org/refocusing_education/fellowships.html