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A real-world AI-based infrastructure for screening and prediction of progression in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) providing accessible shared care

Collaborative Efforts in Vision Health: Recap of the I-SCREEN Consortium Meeting

I-SCREEN consortium kicked off a meeting on May 29th in Vienna, Austria, with partners coming together for a comprehensive discussion on the project's progress and future directions. Ursula Schmidt-Erfurth from the Medical University of Vienna, the coordinator of the project, opened the meeting with an overview of the agenda and conveyed several important messages to the consortium.

Schmidt-Erfurth emphasised the relevance of I-SCREEN, highlighting the project's focus on the early detection and treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) through an innovative shared-care strategy. Currently, almost 70 million people in Europe are affected by AMD, and with the ageing population, the number of patients is expected to increase by 15%. The incidence of AMD is prevalent worldwide, including in regions like China, underscoring the global significance of the I-SCREEN project.

Efficiency and innovation were key points in Schmidt-Erfurth’s address. She highlighted that the successful implementation of the I-SCREEN project and improvements in screening measures, particularly in the community-based study led by the European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) under Work Package 4 (WP4), aim to enable early detection of AMD patients and alleviate the burden on the overwhelmed hospital system through shared-care.)

Moreover, Schmidt-Erfurth also highlighted the strength of I-SCREEN in its diverse consortium, which brings together various expertise and disciplines. This multidisciplinary approach is crucial for developing effective screening tools and methodologies, particularly for treatable conditions that, if identified early, can prevent vision loss. The integration of AI in the screening processes is seen as vital, as it can help identify patients who need immediate intervention, ensuring timely and effective treatment. She concluded her introduction by emphasising the importance of critical evaluation and open discussions to ensure the project's success.

I-SCREEN Project Officer Ciara Phelan joined the consortium meeting virtually and shared her key strategies for successfully implementing a Horizon Europe project. Her main messages included the importance of effective and clear communication, promptly addressing issues, and communicating delays and changes promptly. Additionally, she emphasised the need for good communication between participants and staying on top of deliverables.

Further agenda items included presentations on the latest advancements in AMD research. Schmidt-Erfurth presented the "State-of-the-Art in AMD Research," and Hrvoje Bogunović discussed "Predictive Models in Early and Advanced AMD". Gregor Reiter from Medical University of Vienna presented the first two clinical studies, SUDETES and APENNINES and provided an update on the protocols and the next steps needed prior to first patient recruitment. The Medical University of Vienna aims to start with patient recruitment in June.

Matjaž Mihelčič, president of ECOO and WP4 leader, presented the main aims of the organisation, which include promoting eye health across borders and harmonising clinical and educational standards of optometric and optical practice throughout Europe. Mihelčič also discussed ECOO's role in the project, current progress in WP4, and their perspective on the potential impact of I-SCREEN.

An imperative aspect of WP4 is the telemedicine feedback loop, that will be implemented between a retina specialist at the Medical University of Vienna and the optometrist sites. Christoph Grechenig presented on "Telemedicine: Detecting AMD on OCT," emphasising that I-SCREEN is taking responsibility for the participants of the community-based clinical study to ensure their health and that nothing is missed during screening. He also outlined how AMD is detected and differentiated on OCT images.

Amir Sadeghipour and Vedran Hrbaček from RetInSight presented the current status and developments in WP3 with the presentation "Introduction to the Claire Platform by RetinSight," covering Fluid Monitor and GA Monitor. Clinical sites had the opportunity to ask questions related to the data platform and software tools that will be used in the project, as well as the workflow for data collection.

The session "Clinical Sites' Ideas for Enriching I-SCREEN" provided an opportunity for each clinical site involved in the project (UMCL, CHU Dijon, Hospital Clinic Barcelona, VISTA, USZ, QUB) to share their perspectives on enhancing the I-SCREEN project l to maximise the impact of the research activities.

The last session of the day was presented by Gabrijela Radic from RISE (affiliated entity of Eurice), titled "HORIZON Europe Project - Next Steps," discussing the project within the funding framework and outlining the next steps in establishing structures, processes, and workflows for I-SCREEN.

Furthermore, representatives from Heidelberg Engineering and TopCon dialled into the session to talk about their involvement in I-SCREEN. This also served as an opportunity to discuss and find solutions to any challenges related to the OCT devices required in the clinical studies.