15th Annual

2023 Midwest Eye Research Symposium

Sponsored by the Iowa City VA Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss


MERS 2023 will take place on August 4, 2023 at the University of Iowa
Meeting registration and abstract submission will be open between June 1 and July 15, 2023


Keynote Speaker/Session Chairs

Bärbel Rohrer, PhD - Keynote Speaker
Dr. Rohrer is Professor of Ophthalmology and the SmartState Endowed Chair in Gene and Pharmaceutical Treatment of Retinal Degenerative Diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina (UMSC), a VA Research Scientist, founder of multiple start-up companies, and an academic leader in diseases of the retina.
Her lab investigates mechanisms of retinal degeneration and neuroprotection, focusing on targeting complement activation in models of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and improving mitochondrial homeostasis as a means to promote life-span in neurons. Dr. Rohrer was the first to show that the alternative pathway of complement can be targeted therapeutically, reducing both symptoms in wet and dry AMD.
Dr. Rohrer has published over well over 100 manuscripts and book chapters, received over 40 peer-reviewed grants, serves as editor or reviewer for many journals, and mentored over 50 trainees. She is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, a member of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the Society for Neuroscience, and the International Society of Eye Research (ISER), which recently recognized her achievements with the Ernst H. Bárány Prize.

Natalia Vergara, PhD - Chair, Session I
Dr. Vergara is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the Colorado University School of Medicine and the Director of the Ocular Development and Translational Technologies Laboratory at the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center. Her research is focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of human retina development and degeneration as well as developing stem cell-based disease models and technologies that facilitate the application of human retinal organoids to the development of novel therapeutic drugs. She is a serial winner of National Eye Institute's Challenge awards, having won the “Disease modeling" and “Drug screening" categories in 2022, and the "3D Retinal Organoid Challenge Award" in 2021.

K. P. Connie Tam, PhD - Chair, Session II
Dr. Tam is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. Her lab's research focuses on understanding the innate defense and immunoregulatory functions of corneal epithelial cells. She discovered that the C-terminal fragments of a cytokeratin protein (K6) in corneal epithelial cells are antimicrobial, and that endogenous K6 regulates signaling pathways to control production of inflammatory mediators.

Sheila A. Baker, PhD - Chair, Session III
Dr. Baker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Iowa. Research in her lab is centered on three different ion channels in photoreceptors (Cav1.4, HCN1, and Kv2.1/Kv8.2) and their contribution to photoreceptor health. She has mentored several successful students, served on multiple review panels, and is a past member of the Women in Science and Engineering Advisory Board, University of Iowa.


Preliminary Program

Thursday, August 3, 2023

6 pm - Social Event - TBA

Friday August 4, 2023

8:15-8:45Poster Set-up / Coffee
8:45-9 Opening Remarks
9-10 Platform Session I, Chaired by Dr. Tam
10-11 Poster Session I/Coffee
11-12 Platform Session II, Chaired by Dr. Vergara
12-1 Lunch
1-2 Platform Session III, Chaired by Dr. Baker
2-3 Poster Session II
3-4 Keynote Address - Baerbel Rohrer, Ph.D.
Title: TBA
4-4:30 Recognition of Outstanding Presentations
5 Symposium adjourned

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Dr. Kuehn in advance at 319-335-9565.

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