Exploring new horizons in eye research: CRATER 2023 Conference summary

CRATER 2023 is a unique event prepared by ICTER as a place to exchange ideas, disseminate research results, and explore the latest achievements related to the most important of our senses: vision.

Since 2019, scientists at the International Centre for Translational Eye Research (ICTER) have been working on breakthrough technologies for imaging and diagnosing eye diseases, facilitating procedures to save or restore vision. The research is interdisciplinary and covers biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science. A summary of the first period of ICTER’s activity was CRATER – Conference on Recent Advances in Translational Eye Research 2023 – which took place in the heart of Warsaw, at the Copernicus Science Center, on September 7-8, 2023. For the implementation of the event, a grant of PLN 320,000 was obtained under the “Excellent Science – Support for Scientific Conferences” program, financed by the Ministry of Education and Science. The event was co-organized by the Candela Foundation, whose statutory activity focuses on supporting the development of optics and photonics in Poland.

The conference aimed to bring together experts from various fields dealing with the process of vision in one place and enable them to exchange scientific ideas, as well as to create a bridge between the scientific world and industry. The conference focused on the latest achievements in the field of vision research, as well as new technologies and diagnostic tools, as well as methods of treating eye diseases. The range of topics covered was wide and included, among others: optogenetics, OCT optical tomography, two-photon imaging, structural biology, bioinformatics, electrophysiology, and the medical use of artificial intelligence (machine learning and deep learning).

Extraordinary guests and extraordinary conversations at CRATER 2023

Anna Clunes, British Ambassador to Poland, inaugurated the conference. During CRATER 2023, there were many interesting presentations in which experts from various specializations shared their knowledge. The conference was graced by the presence of such names as Pablo Artal, Chris Dainty, Francesca Fanelli, Arie Gruzman, Alison Hardcastle, Karl-Wilhelm Koch, Serge Picaud, and Olaf Strauss. Topics covered include the function of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), the possibility of restoring vision, the aging process of cells in the retinal vessels or the mechanisms of geographic atrophy (GA), the advanced stage of the dry form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Parallel sessions covered, among others: the modeling of hereditary retinal diseases, processing of visual information, protection of light-sensitive cells (cones and rods), and the potential use of rhodopsin conformational modulators. All of these presentations offered a comprehensive overview of the latest developments in the field of vision research.

During CRATER 2023, prizes were awarded for the best-presented posters containing descriptions of scientific research. Lynn Kandakji, representing the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, was honored for her poster titled “Subclinical Keratoconus Detection Using Deep Learning on Raw Anterior-Segment Optical Coherence Tomography Imaging.” Wiktor Kulesza from ICTER also received a distinction for his poster titled “Hemodynamics Monitoring in Mouse Retinal Vessels via Ultrafast Volumetric Spatio-Temporal Optical Coherence Tomography (STOC-T) Imaging”.

Success has many names

The conference provided a unique opportunity for those outside the eye research community to gain a concise and understandable overview of ICTER’s scientific achievements. Łukasz Kornaszewski, Deputy Director for Intellectual Property at ICTER, said:

Our industrial partners had the opportunity to see us in a natural environment. This event was an unusual and very effective way for non-specialists to understand the depth of our scientific achievements. We prepared informative and concise content, which made it accessible to a wider audience.

Looking at this event from yet another perspective and analyzing the impact of the CRATER conference through the lens of medicine, Piotr Chaniecki, Advisor to the ICTER Management Board for Ophthalmology, shared his observations:

This year’s CRATER conference was like a compass that showed the direction of development in global ophthalmology. Fascinating lectures and poster sessions showed how new technologies will help patients keep their eyes healthy. Soon, ophthalmologists will likely have powerful diagnostic and therapeutic tools at their disposal. For me, the great value lies in learning about technologies that will speed up the diagnosis of certain diseases, giving patients a chance to recover.

Maciej Wojtkowski, director of ICTER, emphasized the importance of the conference:

CRATER provided an important opportunity for ICTER to engage with the global eye research knowledge community. Thanks to the conference, we know where we are and where we are going. This exchange of knowledge allowed us to gain valuable experience and contacts that will bear fruit in the future.

Something more than an ordinary conference

The success of CRATER 2023 can also be measured in numbers. The event was attended by 168 people who represented a variety of environments and organizations. A survey conducted after the conference showed that participants were very satisfied with CRATER 2023. When asked to rate the conference, over 60% of respondents rated it a full 10 points out of 10.

CRATER 2023 was more than just an ordinary conference; was a celebration of the relentless pursuit of scientific and technological advancements in the field of vision research.

During the conference, two videos were recorded containing participants’ statements about the future of research and the event itself. These films undoubtedly reflect the atmosphere of the event. Links to videos below:

Summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5o2ekqTSF1U&ab_channel=IChFPAN.

Interviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BvXBZTGrsY&ab_channel=IChFPAN.

Detailed information about CRATER can be found at: https://crater.icter.pl/.

Text: Anna Przybyło-Józefowicz and Marcin Powęska.

Content review: CRATER Organizing Comittee.