01 The Centre for Contact Lens Research (CCLR) was established by Desmond Fonn in 1988 and was one of the first research organisations in North America to conduct clinical contact lens trials.
Over the years, we became very well-known for working with industry to perform trials on products in development, new products and conducting comparative research when new lenses and solutions came onto the market. In addition, we performed many basic research clinicals to understand the clinical performance of contact lenses and solutions.
During the last three decades, the work performed at the CCLR has evolved. When I joined 20 years ago I set up the biological science laboratories to support our clinical trials. Subsequently, the biosciences arm of the CCLR was established. We progressively began to do more basic science work, and companies came to us more frequently asking us to provide a fundamental understanding of why certain products performed better than others.
Over time, we came to realise that our name didn’t reflect what we did anymore. Consequently, in January 2018 we officially rebranded as the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE). Our new name better reflects what we do, which is centred on our ability to perform clinical trials, undertake cutting edge biological science and provide educational tools, primarily in the areas of contact lenses, dry eye and ocular surface drug delivery. The name change was not driven by a desire to change our focus and scope of work, but rather an acknowledgement that we had evolved as an organisation over the preceding 30 years and hadn’t changed our name to reflect that expanded scope.
“Education is of pivotal importance to us. We feel that it is an absolute remit for us to make our scientific findings available in a digestible format for clinicians in practice”
02 CORE’s mission today is to undertake world-class research and educate clinicians and scientists about the interaction of contact lenses with the ocular surface and the health of the ocular surface.
Our work is divided into three areas: clinical trials, biological science and education. At any one given time, we will be running around eight to 10 clinical trials, 10 to 12 biological science projects and three to four educational projects. Typically, we publish around two peer-reviewed papers a month, with an annual output of between 20–24 on average. In addition, we also produce a similar number of papers in clinical journals such as Contact Lens Spectrum and OT. We have about 50 people working at CORE and this is split into roughly three equal thirds – around one third of our staff are researchers, one third are trainees (undergraduate science students, MSc, PhD and postdoctoral fellows) and one third are support staff. These three groups combine to produce a dedicated workforce, and it is a joy to come into work and lead this wonderful team of people.
03 Education is of pivotal importance to us. We feel that it is an absolute remit for us to make our scientific findings available in a digestible format for clinicians in practice.
It’s all very good doing research and writing it up, but it is very important that practitioners understand the relevance of what is published because today’s research is tomorrow’s evidence-based practice. Practitioners are busy people and don’t always have the time or access to read papers in very high-powered scientific journals. They just want to know what the findings mean for them and how they can be applied to ensure their clinical practice is aligned with the most up to date evidence, allowing them to continue to offer the very best patient care – this is what we aim to do through our education portfolio.
The flagship educational materials we produce include Contact Lens Update, an online resource dedicated to translating global research findings into practical advice for use with patients. The educational team at CORE publish six new issues each year with contributors from research institutions around the world. We recognise the challenge of differential diagnosis and appropriate management of contact lens related complications, and run an online resource, the Contact Lens Management Guide to help support practitioners in this area. This unique tool enables the practitioner to search for each complication by name as well as by presenting signs and symptoms. It is full of clinical examples, videos and, for students, practical tips on using the slit lamp correctly to view each pathology.
“We have a wonderful team of dedicated researchers, students and support staff, and it is a joy to come into work and lead this team of people”
04 CORE has had many achievements over the last 30 years.
These include being involved in the introduction, and understanding the value of, frequent replacement and daily disposable lenses; being heavily involved in the early development of silicone hydrogels in terms of their clinical performance; and working on trying to unravel the issues around the discomfort that can be associated with contact lens wear. More recently, we have been involved in the development of topical ocular drug delivery materials, and were a major contributor to TFOS DEWS II report. In terms of myopia control, we were involved in the recent IMI myopia reports, and are the largest global site in the MiSight study. We have patients who have been wearing MiSight lenses for six years now, which, outside of the four sites involved in the study, is probably longer than any other academic institution in the world.
05 If I was in private practice at the moment, the hot topics that I would be looking to upskill and invest in would be the ocular surface, specifically dry eye diagnosis and its management, myopia control and specialty lenses. These are also the things that we, at CORE, are very interested in currently investigating.
We are increasingly involved in a broad range of myopia control research. Our ongoing projects not only look at soft and rigid contact lenses for myopia management, but also low dose atropine and novel design spectacles lenses. We are heavily involved in the development of ocular drug delivery contact lenses, and are working with companies looking at the development of electronic lenses for educational and entertainment purposes.
The evolution of our organisation over the past 30 years is one that I am extremely proud of, and we look forward to moving ahead with CORE over the next 30 years too. We aim to continue pushing forward the boundaries of academic understanding, contributing to new and novel devices, and informing clinical practice for practitioners around the world.
- As told to Emily McCormick.