Supporting Vision Researchers of Tomorrow

Fighting Blindness Canada’s inaugural vision research competition, ‘Eye on the Cure presented by FYidoctors’, premiered on Saturday, November 13, 2021. In front of three judges – Dr. Al Ulsifer, CEO and Chairman at FYidoctors, Dr. Michel Cayouette, Director, Cellular Neurobiology Research Unit at Montreal Clinical Research Institute and Tara James, Chair, Fighting Blindness Canada Board of Directors – early-stage vision researchers battled it out for $100,000 in awards to support their research and advance their innovations.

“Now more than ever, it is so important to encourage and invest in the research of tomorrow. We are so excited to have the opportunity to spotlight and support these talented young researchers as they work to develop new diagnostics and treatments for vision loss.” – Larissa Moniz PhD, Director of Research and Mission Programs

The Competitors:

Jovi Wong, MD, MSc, DPhil, Ophthalmology resident, University of Toronto

Jovi is trying to increase access to eye screening by developing an eye exam that can be done with your smartphone. Jovi is combining a smartphone fundoscope and artificial intelligence that could allow health care workers in rural, remote or underserved areas to more easily diagnose eye disease in order to prevent unnecessary vision loss.

Stephan Ong Tone, MDCM, PhD, FRCSC, Clinician Scientist, Assistant Professor, Sunnybrook Research Institute

Stephan is developing an innovative way to improve corneal transplantation. Stephan will be testing if vesicles gathered from placental cells can improve transplantation by reducing scarring and the risk of rejection.

Justin Belair-Hickey, PhD Candidate, PhD candidate, University of Toronto

Justin’s research is trying to advance our understanding of stem cells and cell therapy for retinal degeneration. Justin is trying to recreate macular development in the laboratory with the hope that understanding this process will provide crucial knowledge that allows researchers to more efficiently produce cone photoreceptor cells for cell replacement therapy.

Etienne Benard-Seguin, MD, MD resident, University of Calgary & Abdullah Al-Ani, MD-PhD Candidate, PhD candidate, University of Calgary

Etienne and Abdullah are trying to improve the diagnosis of optic neuritis allowing more accurate and quicker treatment. They are testing a new low-cost and accessible software based on artificial intelligence modelling. They hope this will lower costs, lead to more consistent and robust diagnosis and better outcomes for patients with optic neuritis.

Dr. Jovi Wong, winner of the Researcher to Watch Award

The Winners:

Dr. Jovi Wong was awarded $50,000 Researcher to Watch Award. Watch Jovi accepting the award.

The $30,000 Heathbridge Capital People’s Choice Award was given to Dr. Stephan Ong Tone. You can watch a recording of the live announcement on FBC’s Facebook page.

Dr. Stephan Ong Tone, winner of the Heathbridge Capital People’s Choice Award

The remaining finalists were awarded $10,000 Inspiration Awards, to help kick-start their research projects.

Purchased tickets and donations helped raise over $150,000 in support of FBC.

Watch the show from November 13 HERE.

Click HERE for the full press release.

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