Big Data, Better Care

Joelle Hallak

"I am extremely honored to be part of the BrightFocus 2019 awardees. Our work will advance the AMD field."
—Joelle Hallak, PhD

Joelle Hallak, PhD, first became interested in blinding eye diseases after observing the debilitating effects in patients. The majority of people with advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have severe vision loss. While artificial intelligence algorithms shed some light on how the disease can progress, tailored follow-up care and treatments for AMD patients are still lacking. Support from Macular Degeneration Research is helping Dr. Hallak bridge that gap.

Making the connection between her background in statistical and epidemiological research and the rise of big data applications, Dr. Hallak realized that the proper tools could help improve the diagnosis of AMD and the early identification of patients who are likely to progress to a blinding stage.

"Our work, funded by Macular Degeneration Research, is committed to making that happen," she says.

As an assistant professor of ophthalmology and the executive director of the Ophthalmic Clinical Trials and Translational Research Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Hallak is investigating new methods to integrate patient data for predicting disease progression in AMD and other blinding diseases. This particular study integrates imaging, genetic, demographic, and clinical patient parameters from several data sources and provides time-dependent probabilities for predicting advanced AMD.

Dr. Hallak's goal: improving the identification of high-risk patients as candidates for more frequent screening and earlier treatment, leading to better clinical outcomes.

"Results may lead to developing a tool to predict the chances of AMD progression on a personalized, patient-by-patient basis," she says.

Support researchers like Dr. Hallak as they work to prevent, treat, and cure this disease with your future gift to Macular Degeneration Research. Contact Charles Thomas at 301-556-9397 or cthomas@brightfocus.org to learn more.