The Department's industry-initiated clinical trials record continues to be strong, especially in retinal research, and funding from it also supports smaller investigator-initiated studies and diagnostic research equipment. The Department was awarded a Canadian Institute of Health Research randomized control trial grant in glaucoma which was only the second Canadian Institute of Health Research clinical trial ever awarded to Vision Research, the last one being in 1978 (Queen's University Ophthalmology). The Department has received peer-reviewed funding in the area of knowledge synthesis and knowledge translation and is actively involved in this area nationally and internationally. Investigator-initiated research in the area of selective laser trabeculoplasty has gained international recognition as it has provided evidence for a paradigm shift in the management of glaucoma.
The Department's PhD researcher in health economics received a start-up grant from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind-Baker Foundation and is very involved with all aspects of the Department's Clinical research as it pertains to health economics with more than 10 projects on the go and several other grants submitted or in preparation.
The Department is the vision lead for the world's largest research study ever undertaken - the Ontario Health Study. We are the only Western lead site from all the specialties in the Ontario Health System. In another major initiative, an innovative cloud-based Research, Innovation and Experimentation Database (RIED) has been created and already populated with more than 1000 clinical records. This powerful "big data" database will be used to identify data-driven optimal treatment algorithms for glaucoma and was recently recognized with the inaugural Strategic Research Grant by a peer-review committee. Approval has already been obtained to link this with ICES Western databases to expand the understanding of glaucoma management and treatment. The departmental lead investigator has obtained interest from many Department members are interested in adding their patient records to RIED to further expand its power and potential. Data mining and observational clinical research has the potential to be the next research expansion point for the Department.
In as much as population research can be undertaken within the realm of observational administrative research databases, this is part of our Department's research portfolio and will likely improve with a departmental Electronic Medical Record and ICES Western. An official collaboration has been established with the West China University in Chengdu to conduct a prospective evaluation of the clinical situation of elderly glaucoma patients in Canada and China.
The Department engages in basic science research from two perspectives: with our basic scientist cross appointees and within our own basic science bench laboratory.
Department members are actively involved in ongoing research within the Departments of Cell Biology (Dr. Hill), Pathology (Dr. Chakrabarti), and Mechanical Engineering (Dr. Newson). Strong collaborations have been secured with PhD scientists at the National Research Council, in the United States and China. Typically one Department member has worked with one of these basic science individuals.
A Basic Science Research Laboratory with a full-time technician is supported within the LHRI and has published studies in high-impact journals. Our Clinician-Scientist who runs this lab has a major interest in the pathophysiology and management of glaucoma. Projects have focused on the development of novel and/or optimization of existing treatments for patients with glaucoma. Our most recent Basic PhD Scientist investigates and identifies therapeutic targets for fibrotic disorders of the eye such as glaucoma, corneal scarring, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration that are responsible for loss of vision.
Funding for this lab has come from small peer-reviewed grants, small industry grants, donations, and a small amount from the Department's operating budget. Future plans continuing this invaluable work is to obtain Canadian Institute of Health Research funding with synergistic efforts from our research team.