February 5, 2024

Lions Gift of Sight, Eye Bank Association of America, and ADCIS Innovate Eye Banking

Lions Gift of Sight (LGS), a world-renowned eye bank; ADCIS, a company specializing in innovative and high-performance image processing; and the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA), which represents every non-profit eye bank in the United States, are proud to announce the latest innovation in donor cornea evaluation: Kerify Vision. 

Kerify Vision is an automated computer vision software system that, for the first time, provides accurate quantification of the total processing damage seen in donor corneas. Developed by LGS and ADCIS, and supported by EBAA investment capital, Kerify Vision will determine donor corneal health more accurately than current methods. This will improve patient outcomes with corneal transplantation and eye bank operations.

After processing, eye banks typically determine whether a donor cornea is healthy enough to transplant by using a specular microscope. Specular microscopes can visualize and evaluate how healthy the cornea endothelium is. This is the key criteria for determining the quality of donor corneas. However, specular microscopes cannot scan more than 1% of the cornea, so they often miss significant areas of damage and can thus be quite inaccurate. Specular microscopy is also time consuming to perform, taking up to 30 minutes to evaluate a single cornea. And the accuracy of specular microscopy is heavily dependent on image quality, which can vary widely, depending on numerous finicky details such as how warm the cornea is, how long it has been allowed to sit, and how the cornea was processed. 

An alternative to specular microscopy is using vital dyes to stain the damaged areas on the cornea endothelium. Using such staining techniques, eye banks can rapidly and consistently visualize how much damage has been done to the entire cornea. However, current methods to quantify the amount of stained damage on a given cornea are time consuming and highly dependent on the skill of the technician. Under these conditions, the eye banks frequently rely on estimates of how much damage is seen on staining, and these estimates tend to overestimate the damage. This contributes to the waste of transplantable tissue. 

Kerify Vision improves upon the endothelial staining method by providing computer-aided quantification of the area of damage revealed by stain. This automated method is poised to become the gold standard for tissue assessment. Using Kerify Vision, eye banks can accurately assess endothelial damage and produce a report for surgeons in seconds. Kerify Vision provides accurate, comprehensive, and reproducible analysis of the health of processed corneas, so eye banks and surgeons can ensure donor corneas are well-suited for transplantation.

“I am delighted to be partnering with LGS and EBAA to bring ADCIS computer vision expertise to eye banks,” said François Potevin, ADCIS Director. “I strongly believe that image processing software can support eye banks in their tissue assessment processes. And this is only the beginning!”

“EBAA has been committed to driving innovation in eye banking and corneal transplantation since our founding in 1961. We believe that Kerify Vision will result in greater certainty for surgeons, improved operations for eye banks, and better stewardship of the gift of sight provided by our generous cornea donors,” added Kevin Corcoran, EBAA’s President & CEO.

“It is our duty as stewards of these precious donated gifts to leverage technology to further evolve our capabilities in restoring sight. The team at Lions Gift of Sight identified a gap in tools available to eye banks and has worked with the experts at ADCIS to innovate solutions. The EBAA is helping us put this tool in the hands of technicians to start improving processes as soon as possible,” reported Brian Philippy, LGS Director of Business Development.

“Although corneal transplantation and corneal tissue processing techniques have evolved immensely over the past two decades, our tools for evaluating corneas for transplantation have not changed since tissue evaluation was first standardized. There is a huge technology gap in how we transplant corneas and the antiquated method in which we pick out corneas for transplantation. Bringing our tissue evaluation technology up to par with modern corneal transplantation techniques with Kerify Vision is critical for improving patient outcomes from corneal transplantation,” said Joshua H. Hou, MD, Medical Director LGS, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Minnesota. 

Thanks to EBAA funding, Kerify Vision will soon be available to eye banks worldwide. 

Lions Gift of Sight is a community-based non-profit eye bank. Founded in 1960, it is the oldest anatomic donation organization in Minnesota. LGS serves the needs of donors in Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and North Dakota and distributes corneas and ocular tissue for transplantation, research, and medical education throughout the world. 

The Eye Bank Association of America is the world’s oldest transplant association and is the nationally recognized accrediting and standards setting body for eye banks. The EBAA champions the restoration of sight through core services to members and advancing donation, transplantation, and research throughout the world.

ADCIS is a Computer Vision pure player developing innovative image processing and analysis software in areas including ophthalmology, life sciences, and industrial processes. 

For more information, please contact the Kerify Vision team at [email protected].

Governor Tim Walz Proclaims November "Eye Donation Month"

Governor Tim Walz has proclaimed November "Eye Donation Month." Eye Donation Month is an observance to showcase the tremendous benefits that spring from eye donation and the transformative power of sight restoration. 

In 1925, Helen Keller challenged members of the Lions International service organization to become “Knights of the Blind in the crusade against darkness.” The Lions of Minnesota answered the call by establishing a state eye bank, Lions Gift of Sight, through a partnership with the University of Minnesota. This eye bank helped restore the sight of more than 1,664 people in 2022 through corneal transplants, and thousands of eyes and corneas have been donated to research and medical education so that future generations can lead independent lives without the specter of incurable eye disease. 

Please consider registering to become an eye, organ, and tissue donor.

Image of official eye donation month proclamation

Lions Gift of Sight Eye Bank is Recognized in National Photo Contest

Lions Gift of Sight eye bank honors Jodi Altenhofen, Community Services Liaison and eye donor family member, on her winning photograph, nature category, submitted to the Eye Bank Association of America’s (EBAA) 2023 photo contest. Jodi captured what makes her cherish the gift of sight when she photographed the Rocky Mountains in Banff, Alberta, Canada, at sunrise on May 18, 2022, at 5:38 am using an iPhone 14 Pro Max. 

This honor comes on the heels of another EBAA winning photograph submitted in 2022 by Lions Gift of Sight when Patrick Becker, C.E.B.T., Technical Operations Director and transplant recipient family member, was one of four winners. His winning photograph was shot at sunrise on August 14, 2021, at Lake Catherine, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah using an iPhone 12 camera. 

Themed “A New View! Building Hope. Restoring Sight. Changing Lives,” the EBAA annual photography competition celebrates the new perspective on life that corneal transplant recipients experience from having their eyesight restored. It also reflects the change in viewpoint donor families express when the loss of a loved one gives someone else the opportunity to see the world anew.

Photo of the Rocky Mountains in Banff, Alberta, Canada, at sunrise on May 18, 2022, at 5:38 am using an iPhone 14 Pro Max

Jodi Altenhofen photo of the Rocky Mountains in Banff, Alberta, Canada, at sunrise.

Photo taken at sunrise on August 14, 2021, at Lake Catherine, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah using an iPhone 12 camera

Patrick Becker photo of sunrise at Lake Catherine, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah.

LGS Well-Represented at Eye Bank Association of America Meeting

Lions Gift of Sight sent 11 staff members to learn, teach, and network at the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) annual meeting on June 21 - 24 in Dallas, Texas. The event presented many opportunities for our eye bankers to shine.

Chris LaGassie, Joshua Hou, MD, and Ching Yuan, PhD, all made podium presentations as follows: Effect of Paired Radial Incision Placement Relative to DMEK Scroll Axis on Triple Scroll Formation in Young Donor Tissue (LaGassie), a Case Study on 'A Recipient with CJD’ (Hou), and Research: Creating a POSITIVE IMPACT on the World and Your Bottom Line (Yuan).

Dr. Joshua Hou and Chris LaGassie at the podium
Joshua Hou, M.D., and Chris LaGassie presenting at the EBAA annual meeting.
LGS staff at EBAA banquet

Ready for the Friday night dinner are: Ching Yuan, Ph.D., Chris LaGassie, Joshua Hou, M.D., Sean Poppoff, Patty Stockdale, Peter Bedard, Patrick Becker, and Jolie Schmidt.

Three eye banks (Lions Gift of Sight, VisionGift, and Advancing Sight Network) presented a session on "Research: Creating a POSITIVE IMPACT on the World and Your Bottom Line." Research & Development Director, Ching Yuan, Ph.D., was one of the keynote speakers, giving the talk, "Help your clients (and you) have a phenomenal research program." Dr. Yuan was also a faculty member for the session "Dissecting Ocular Tissue for Research: Live Demo and Wet Lab." Lions Gift of Sight partnered with two other eye banks on this training and provided the needed tissue.

Medical Director, Joshua Hou, M.D., participated in the Medical Directors Symposium and moderated the Scientific Symposium. He is also the EBAA Scientific Program Chair.

Technical Operations Director, Patrick Becker, participated in the Technical Skills Workshop. As a member of the Technician Education Committee, Patrick presented a case study about an LGS eye donation from a living donor. Eye donations from living persons are rare, and this was only the second LGS has coordinated in more than 60 years of operations. Patrick was one of five presentations at this invited session.

Chris LaGassie and Stephanie Simpson (Eye Bank Scientists) and Katie Miller (Metro Tissue Recovery Supervisor) were all celebrated at the meeting for achieving CEBT (Certified Eye Bank Technician) status. Eye Bank Scientist Minhua Wu was recognized for receiving the Jachin Misko Memorial Scholarship.

Congratulation to everyone at Lions Gift of Sight for advancing the field of ophthalmology in so many ways!

Ching teaching other eye bankers to process research tissue
Ching Yuan, Ph.D., at the live demo and wet lab on research tissue processing.
Patrick presenting at EBAA technical skills workshop
Patrick presenting at EBAA Technical Skills Workshop.
Lynn Chris and Jodi beside balloons and lit EBAA sign
Lynn Balfour, Chris LaGassie, and Jodi Altenhofen at the EBAA annual meeting.

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LGS at ARVO 2023

Lions Gift of Sight research team at ARVO

Research Scientist Sung Lee, Research and Development Director Dr. Ching Yuan, Research Fellow Peter Bedard (all with Lions Gift of Sight), and Researcher Heidi Roehrich (with the University of Minnesota's Vision Core Facility Histology lab) at ARVO.

The Lions Gift of Sight research team attended the annual ARVO (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) meeting in New Orleans to promote our many research accomplishments, current endeavors, and services offered to scientists around the world. Peter Bedard (Research Fellow), Sung Lee (Research Scientist), Sean Poppoff (Executive Director), Heidi Roehrich (Histology Researcher), and Dr. Ching Yuan (Research and Development Director) connected with more than 80 potential research clients at our vendor booth. Peter also presented a poster, "Effect of paired radial incision orientation relative to DMEK scroll axis on the likelihood of triple scroll formation in young donor tissue," co-authored by Eye Bank Scientist Chris LaGassie and Medical Director Dr. Joshua Hou.

Link to Bedard 2023 ARVO Poster

Peter poses with his poster at ARVO 2023

Peter Bedard, M.S., with his ARVO 2023 poster.

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Photo of new Lions club members along with District Governor Jennifer.

Pictured are LifeSource Lions, Laura Kelly-Lovdahl, Kyle Kinsey, and Peter Farstad, along with LGS Lions, Amber Benbow, District Governor Jennifer Marshall, and Lion Lynn Balfour, at the new member induction ceremony on November 29.

Ambassadors Lions Club Welcomes New Partner Members

On November 29, 2022, a special induction ceremony was held to welcome in five new members to the Ambassadors Lions club: two from Lions Gift of Sight and three from our partner organization LifeSource. We are proud to welcome Lion Lynn Balfour (LGS Partner Relations Liaison), Lion Amber Benbow (LGS Business Analyst), Lion Peter Farstad (LifeSource Chief Administrative Officer), Lion Laura Kelly-Lovdahl (LIfeSource Philanthropy & Development Coordinator), and Lion Kyle Kinsey (LifeSource Director of Clinical Services) to the work of Lions International! Lions District Governor Jennifer Marshall presided, and attending were Lions Jim and Marilyn Opp of the Scandia Marine Lions club and PDG Lion Rob Hed, chair of the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation.

The Minneapolis Ambassadors Lions is a club that has a strong tie with the University of Minnesota. Many of its members come from the departments of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences (including Lions Gift of Sight) and Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery. Many others are community members who support the vision, hearing, diabetes research, and speech work being done at the University.  Club members area available for speaking events and also participate in many service and fundraising activities in the area.

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Photo of Lake Catherine, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah

Congratulations to our Technical Operations Director, Patrick Becker! Out of more than a hundred entries, Patrick was one of four Eye Bank Association of America "A New View" Photo contest winners. The contest theme celebrates both the new perspective on life that corneal recipients experience and the the change in viewpoint donor families express after the loss of a loved one. Photo was taken on August 14, 2021, at 6:49 a.m. with an iPhone 12. The location is Lake Catherine, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah.

Lions International President Brian Sheehan at Oktoberfest Event

Lions International President Brian Sheehan from Bird Island, Minn., relaxes at Oktoberfest event at Nicollet Island Inn Pavilion.

Lions International Board Visits Minnesota

In October, International President Lion Brian Sheehan, the International board of directors, Lions International staff, and many partners in service from all over the world visited Minnesota to conduct business and learn more about Lions Multiple District 5M (Minnesota, Manitoba, and Northwest Ontario). 

Many festivities were planned throughout Minnesota to highlight the beauty and allure of our state. While in the Twin Cities, visitors were treated to dinner at the historic Minneapolis Club and an Oktoberfest celebration at the Nicollet Island Inn Pavilion. Then they headed north to see what Duluth and Brainerd had to offer, not the least of which was the stunning autumn colors!

While the International Board was conducting business, the partners of board members came to Lions Gift of Sight for lunch, talks, and a tour. Staff from every avenue of the eye bank helped teach about the intricacies of eye banking and about the world-class research being conducted or facilitated by LGS. It is a privilege to share our mission with others who give service from the heart!

International Guests Tour LGS Lab

International guests learn about eye banking as they tour the Lions Gift of Sight laboratory.

International guests listen to talks while being treated to lunch

Lions International guests enjoy lunch and speakers, including Lions Gift of Sight Medical Director, Joshua Hou, M.D.

Brian Sheehan pin and Together We Can slogan

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