After a hugely successful annual ESCRS congress – with more than 15,000 delegates – and European conference engagements throughout 2023, I looked at the EURETINA meeting to be the cherry on top of a successful European conference layered sundae season.
But it was more than the tip of the sundae-berg.
Of course, ESCRS and EURETINA are targeting two different segments of the eye – anterior and posterior – and are the two most important European conferences dedicated to these topics, respectively. But, this year there was one more important distinction, I found. While ESCRS we were all busy running to keep up with things, I found at EURETINA there was enough time and space to really talk. Let’s check out my Top 40 Delegate encounters!
- Kester Nahen, CEO of Notal Vision, paid me a great compliment at EURETINA, and for that I have to thank him. He alluded to the fact that before there was Zoom – essentially an element of workplace telepresence – there was me going around with my Double Robot in the mid-2010s. I was his first experience of telepresence. Essentially, the Double Robot is like an iPad on a Segway, with my colleague Ruchi Mahajan then able to drive it remotely while on a Skype-like connection from India, acting as my conference partner. This allowed a video connection to interface with associates in faraway places. Zoom really dialed back the wow factor and actual robot-ness of it all, but make no mistake, we are in an era of telepresence. And Kester mentioned that I was prescient enough to recognize that in our industry before anyone else, to his recollection. Thank you kindly, Kester. For those who may be curious, Notal Vision is all about remote patient monitoring for retinal diseases. So I think indeed, Kester took something of value from his Double Robot experience. Side note: while we all work diligently on our plans for the industry, we also influence it in ways we know not. And perhaps those ways are more powerful than our intended influence.
- Right next to Kester here is Dr. Marc D. de Smet, a great guy, who I see has made great strides since last we spoke at a conference in Taiwan pre-pandemic. Mark was visiting with the majors back then to discuss Preceyes BV, the robotics ophthalmic company, and I see now that it has been acquired by ZEISS. Congrats Marc! Essentially, Preceyes allows surgeons a precision better than 20 μm to position and hold instruments, thus improving treatment outcomes and also enabling delivery of advanced therapies.
With Paul Hallen
- Paul Hallen. I remember catching up with Paul online for our PIE Talks at EURETINA in Virtual Amsterdam – in 2020. I got on my Amsterdam-style bike on Zoom, and we had our interview. Those were the days when we had to do something – anything – to inject some color into our bleak lives. But here we were physically in Amsterdam at Ophthalmology Futures – Retina Forum. Now as I’m writing this, Paul, I’m noticing an email pop into my inbox. The topic: Refractive cataract surgery learning curve of vitrectomy surgeon, and to register for that at the Alcon Experience Academy, to hear Dr. Shen Yi, of Nanjin Huashi Eye Hospital, speak on this. You being the retina-meister, I thought to mention how it’s interesting that the vitrectomy surgeon – who is so skilled – now is finding a learning curve with a refractive cataract procedure. Well of course they must. But still, very interesting.
With Dr. Gemmy Cheung
- Dr. Gemmy Cheung. So I just found out that Gemmy is going to be a major APVRS leader next year, and it will be held in Singapore. Congrats Gemmy! Gemmy also sits on our PIE Magazine Advisory Board, and we’re always in awe of her eloquence. Meanwhile, the APVRS is the most important APAC regional conference on the retina, and yet, has only been around since 2006.
- Dr. Arshad M. Khanani is a massively well-known retinal social influencer. And he paid me a high compliment. To summarize, he said, industry thinks he’s the big influencer. But he thinks I’m the big influencer. Nope, Arshad is definitely the big influencer. I’m just the influencing medium, along with Media MICE. Arshad, meanwhile, did his own fascinating (and much more concise) roundup of EURETINA. Two key takeaways: “Gene therapy is VERY exciting for physicians but there is a knowledge gap globally in terms of how gene therapy works for common retinal diseases and how delivery, efficacy, safety and prophylaxis differ between programs…[and] I can function for 4 days with minimal sleep 😀.” Well, in sleep we are equals, Arshad. See his full roundup here.
- Dr. Rafiq Hasan. Rafiq and I became friends years ago when he led the ophthalmology division at Bayer. Today he is CEO of Complement Therapeutics, which is actually a spin-out from The University of Manchester. Why “Complement”? Well, the company is “focused on the research and development of novel therapeutic approaches to address unmet needs in diseases related to complement dysregulation.”
- Michael J. O’Rourke. Michael, CEO of Re-Vana, in Belfast, was kind enough to extend travel tips in my planned trip to Belfast this year. Sadly Michael, I didn’t make it that weekend. A friend had decided to change our plans such that we ended up at a Camden Oktoberfest with David Hasselhoff (at least a cardboard cutout). But I will look you up on my next visit to Belfast. Re-Vana, meanwhile, is focused on pioneering ocular drug delivery and therapy. EyeLief, EyeLief SD and OcuLief all enable delivery of biologics and small molecules.
- Dr. Harvey Uy. It’s always great to see Harvey, our Medical Advisory Board member for CAKE Magazine. He shared some hot opinions with us from EURETINA, namely that the pharmacological treatment of retinal disease is exploding, with many new promising therapies to treat back-of-the-eye disorders. So look to therapies much more so than, say, new lasers in the future, according to Harvey. But there are plenty of new therapies indeed.
- Hiroko Naoi. Hiroko is an executive at Mani, and I noticed a great credo at Mani: “The best quality in the world, to the world.” The company’s colorful instruments certainly are attractive, but they are also indeed of supreme quality.
- Monika Ranta. We wish to offer congratulations to our friend Monika at LKC, as her work over the past year along with the rest of the team was instrumental in a successful acquisition by DW Healthcare Partners, a healthcare-focused private equity firm. We understand they are poised for even greater growth in 2024. LKC makes electrophysiology testing devices which help in the diagnosis and management of retinal diseases and other disorders affecting the optic nerve.
- Dr. Niels Crama. It was our pleasure to have Niels help host our MICE TV video roundup of EURETINA this time around, as Niels was launching himself as a professional orator with a new website about his talents during EURETINA. Aside from being an ophthalmologist in the Netherlands, Niels does indeed speak excellently on camera, and so we recommend his services indeed! www.nielscrama.nl
- Florian Kayser. Florian was a big promoter this time around of Bausch + Lomb’s SeeLuma “World Tour Dates”, and had the T-shirt to prove it. It’s on a world tour ending up at APVRS in Hong Kong this year, so be on the lookout! SeeLuma provides the world’s first digital binoculars, according to Bausch+Lomb. It also provides “intuitive user interfaces, and a design that allows surgeons to look straight at a heads-up monitor without having to twist their neck.”
- Dr. Kai Januschowski, of Germany, is gaining a massive social media following. He’s not afraid to share an opinion, which gains a lot of comment traction. His recent one: “I personally think that social media posts without knowledge gains are bs (“I humbly announce that I have done this/that…”). What I love are surgical posts like “Hey, this happened to me, it was not cool… I got out of it doing this… What would you guys do?” This helped my surgical approach quite a lot.” Well Kai, I hope this post has been substantive enough to promote knowledge. Cheers!
- Christine Monis. We had a lovely meeting with Christine, of Horus, which has an incredibly good-looking website. Check it out at www.horus-pharma.com. Horus has been expanding markedly this year, with the opening of a new European subsidiary in Sweden for the Nordic countries. Horus provides preservative-free eye and eyelid care products.
- Frederic Giulj. Frederic is a good industry friend going back what seems like lifetimes. Moria, meanwhile, has 4 new catalogs covering the complete Moria offer for eye surgery. Check out these catalogs on their website for: reusable instrumentation, single-use instrumentation, keratoplasty and corneal refractive surgery.
- The Espansione Group. We are so pleased to see Espansione so active all over the globe, and with such a big presence here at EURETINA. LightWave I is the company’s first multi-centric clinical trial researching PBM tech for retinal disease. LightWave II meanwhile is the company’s second large-scale multi-centric research studies.
- The Bayer Team. Our friends at Bayer, including Angela Hutse and Bryan Saraka, must be excited about the FDA approval of 8 mg aflibercept, which is a higher dose than what has been on the market. Aflibercept treats retinal diseases including wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic macular edema (DME).
- Dr. Jan Dirk Ferwerda. Jan is a fellow Vietnam resident, who exhibited at our last year’s CAKE & PIE Expo as owner of European Eye Center, based there. It’s always great to see fellow ophthalmic expats dedicated to improving eye care in Vietnam.
- Bruce Beckstein. Fun fact: Bruce has the largest collection of eye care conference badges in the world, which I have seen in his office fish tank. Aside from that, MedOne manufactures medical devices for retina surgery, and we look forward to seeing them next at APVRS in Hong Kong.
- Pedro Goncalves. We sensed real enthusiasm in Pedro in the advancement of Samsara Vision in Europe in 2024. The primary tech of Samsara is the Implantable Miniature Telescope or IMT. “It is the first and only FDA-approved implantable medical device demonstrated to improve vision and quality of life in qualified individuals with the most advanced, irreversible form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), or Late-Stage AMD,” according to the company.
- Dr. Victor Gonzalez. It had been a while since I caught up with Victor, and so I barged right into his conversation with CEO Clark Tedford for a picture with an old friend. My funky jacket also serves as a juggernaut sometimes. Clark was very hospitable and welcomed me back for a chat later, which unfortunately I didn’t get around to. However, I heard Victor presented favorably on the LIGHTSITE III Pivotal Trial 24-month analysis, which involved multiwavelength Valeda Light Delivery System Treatment in early to intermediate dry AMD patients. Well done.
- Dr. Barbara Parolini. We had the great pleasure of being Media Partner for the European VitreoRetina Society’s conference this year in Turkey, spearheaded by Barbara. She has been a wonderful supporter over the years, and although EVRS was in close proximity to ESCRS, we did our best to cover and look forward to supporting further next year. EVRS, established in 2001, has more than 1,400 members today.
- Dr. Ashish Sharma. Ashish, a good friend ever since we shared a long taxi ride in India some years back, is extremely integrated into the advancement of biosimilars. He is intellectually engaged both with the topic, as well as industry such as Coherus BioSciences, and Biogen, in the dynamic discussion of these agents.
- Josh Pettit. Speaking of which, Josh is the sales director for Coherus, which is performing extremely well. Coherus markets CIMERLI, which has attributes identical to Lucentis, according to the company. It has the “same FDA-approved indications, same dosage strengths (0.3 mg & 0.5 mg), same formulation & excipients, and same amino acid sequence.” It also can provide significant savings over Lucentis, the company notes.
- John Emson. John was kind enough to offer me a private tour of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in London immediately following EURETINA, but sadly my London schedule didn’t allow it. The small museum collection sounds exquisite, however, and I’ll make a point to do so next time. John is a wonderfully friendly comrade in the ophthalmic space and deserves every bit of engagement from our network, as he is both knowledgeable and fun! We also enjoy the same network of great friends in London, including Dr. Radhika Rampat!
- Dr. Saad Waheeb. Saad is on our Advisory Board for PIE Magazine, and yet it’s the first time we met in person – he’s a really friendly doc indeed. I was delighted to hear of Saad’s connections with EPOMEC, a conference we are surely interested in, and so we look forward to being in greater touch and engagement there in the future.
- Dr. Li Lian Foo. Li Lian is one of my favorite friends to catch up with globally, as she’s always ready for a dynamic interview. Stay tuned to find out more in our MICE TV EURETINA roundup. For now, suffice it to say Li Lian recently made an interesting post on LinkedIn showing some interesting news for myopia control. 1) Males are twice as likely to maintain stable vision in adulthood (yep, that’s me. My level of myopia hasn’t changed at all). 2) Non-Chinese also have a lower risk of myopia progression in adulthood – 60% lower.
- Dr. Jay Chhablani. It’s always great seeing the smiling and personable Jay. And congratulations to Jay and co-authors for a fascinating new paper, which he mentioned on LinkedIn: Accurate Detection of 3D Choroidal Vasculature in SS-OCT Images Based on Phansalkar Thresholding.
- Ramón Hilberink. After visiting with and interviewing Ramon about SurgiCube at EURETINA in Amsterdam, I had the pleasure to then visit esteemed ophthalmologist, Dr. Arthur Cummings, in his Wellington Eye Clinic in Dublin and witnessed the device first-hand. SurgiCube “provides a localized, optimally filtered, ultra clean surgical environment to carry out microsurgical procedures and minor surgeries,” according to the company. So it supplies ultra-clean air where it is needed in surgery – at the operating surface.
- Stefanie Gehrke. For years, we have enjoyed collaborating with OD-OS. But it’s interesting to learn where the name came from more recently. “The name OD-OS was chosen for the company as it is instantly recognizable and easily remembered by anyone who is involved in retina therapy,” according to the company. “OD-OS denotes the right eye (Oculus Dexter) and left eye (Oculus Sinister), as is commonly used in everyday documentation by eye doctors. Furthermore, OD-OS also stands for Ophthalmic Diagnostics – Ophthalmic Surgery. And it is this unique combination of the two aspects of standard care that points to the company’s goal: OD-OS is breaking new ground in integrating both the diagnosis and therapy in one solution utilizing Retina Navigation.”
- Tariq Aslam. My very good new friend Tariq – bond firmly forged over karaoke at EURETINA – was an active participant at the Vision Academy Barometer Program, supported by Bayer. Together, we learned much more about factors causing burden to nAMD patients. For example, 42.3% of patients had personal costs related to treatment, and 59.7% wanted reimbursement restrictions lifted. It was fascinating to me that while reimbursement is such a huge issue for pharmaceutical companies to gain profitability, patients themselves seem to find reimbursement still has a lot of challenges. I mean, even 26.7% of patients struggled with costs related to office parking/fees. If that’s a problem, no wonder financial constraints related to reimbursement remain an issue.
- Dayna Izzo. Dayna had all her wardrobe colors out in amazing fashion, and so it was great to sit with her and hear of plans for 2024. Robert Anderson and I went on a tour of the stunning Oculus facilities in early 2020 in Wetzlar, and so, we are supremely excited to hear from Dayna about a new factory in Florida coming soon. Now that we’ve seen the renderings, we can’t wait to see it in person.
- Julien Tixier. I’m sure as the Laser Range Manager at Lumibird Medical, Julien is excited about the prospects in China. Lumibird received approval for its Vitra 2 Photocoagulator in China in April this year. “This significant product in the Lumibird Medical group’s range of lasers for the treatment of retinal pathologies (AMD, diabetic retinopathy) reinforces Lumibird’s position on the Chinese market with the support of its distribution partner, Gaush,” according to the company.
- Stevan Segalen. Aside from having an awesome name, Steven invited me to get involved with the SFO, the major French annual meeting. I think he’s onto something there and so I definitely plan to be in touch with this very friendly fellow.
- Dara Conlon. The Vice President of EURETINA stopped by for a thoughtful discussion at our booth. We both look forward to spending considerable time in Spain next year (one of my favorite countries, and also where I studied as an undergraduate). That’s because EURETINA is being held in Barcelona. A new organizer, Congrex Switzerland, will take on organizing this powerful retina meeting, and it will be held in the same city as ESCRS some time apart. Barcelona, here we come…
- Najib Khalife. Najib, of Astellas Medical Affairs, and I bonded over garment fashion. His shirt was stunning, and my jacket brought the usual funk factor. We’re looking forward to hearing more from Astellas in the field now that they have acquired Iveric Bio (which has successfully commercialized a geographic atrophy (GA) therapy) for a whopping $5.9 billion. I accidentally crashed an Iveric Bio gathering last year at AAO in Chicago, looking for another event, and the buzz was palpable. No wonder! AI is a hot topic but GA is on the money.
- Robert Kuchling and Team ebiga-VISION. “ebiga” stands for “Evidence-based interaction for good vision at any age,” according to the company, which develops tools for preventing and managing chronic eye disease.
- Timothé Laforest. Team EarlySight was a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). They developed a tool enabling the visualization of the eye fundus at a microscopic level and also measuring its biological structure. Along with AI software, it has the potential to “precisely detect and monitor disease biomarkers,” according to the company. Timothé is the CEO and a co-founder.
- Jan Jaap Savelkouls. This innovative gentleman of SJJ Solutions gave me a new pair of cool socks and loads of Netherlands tourism tips. Amazing! SJJ Solutions, meanwhile, provides “a dedicated silicone oil-free trail from vial to eye.” Intriguing.
- Vasileios Skountis. Vasileios is impressively connected on LinkedIn, for the reason that he is a real industry veteran. He’s worked with the likes of Adaptica, also part of He Vision out of China, which has a mammoth operation there under Dr. Wei He. Now he is Managing Director of BIOMED Healthcare Srl, and has 3 decades of experience in the field. Great to continue to be connected with folks like Vasileios, as he is knowledgeable both in European and Asian markets and beyond.
That’s a wrap this time for EURETINA. Count on the next round-up covering AAO in San Francisco, where we are the AAO Official Contractor for Video Marketing. It’s going to be an amazing ride — as an American, coming to America in an official capacity – after living and working abroad for 17 years! Welcome Home Mateo, as I like to call the most energetic version of myself in the third person. Also, I just helped translate a major Spanish-language video project, so there. The name is legit – sort of.