Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) has celebrated World Sight Day (10 October) by awarding AU$600,000 to three leading Australian researchers.
The successful recipients of MDFA’s Research Grants Program, which aims to reduce the incidence and impact of macular disease, were announced by His Excellency the Honourable David Hurley, Governor-General of Australia at Admiralty House, Sydney, on World Sight Day.
“We are excited to be investing in three very different and equally important projects – all of which are making valuable contributions to tackling macular disease,” said the MDFA’s CEO, Dee Hopkins.
“This year one of our researchers is focusing on diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular edema (DME) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Diabetes-related vision loss is around five times higher among Indigenous Australians, so it’s vital that we investigate the science, impact and mitigation of inequity and disadvantage.”
The Foundation’s research grants program was launched in 2011 and to date has committed $4.2 million to cutting-edge research
Grants were also awarded to research investigating the potential for scar-less wound healing in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patients, and new methods for improving detection and monitoring of the disease using optical coherence tomography (OCT).
Macular disease is the country’s leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss, affecting over 1.7 million people. The Foundation’s research grants program was launched in 2011 and to date has committed $4.2 million to cutting-edge research. Program applicants are subjected to a rigorous evaluation process based on that of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), as well as international peer review.
Professor Alex Brown
Professor Alex Brown is an Aboriginal doctor and researcher with one of the strongest track records nationally in Indigenous health research in urban, rural and remote communities. He is the Aboriginal Health Equity Theme Leader, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and a Professor of Medicine –Aboriginal Health, at the University of Adelaide.
Professor Brown’s research project is titled Defining the Risk and Epidemiology of Aboriginal Australian Macular Disease: The DREAM Project.
His research aims to advance understanding of the underlying social, psychological, environmental, behavioural, clinical, biological and metabolomic risk factors of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular oedema (DMO) among Aboriginal people.
Dr Audra Shadforth
Dr Audra Shadforth is a biomedical scientist focussed on understanding the development of age-related eye diseases to design new therapy options for patients. She is a Lecturer in the School of Environment and Science at Griffith University, and a Visiting Research Fellow in the Ocular Cell Therapies Research Program at the Queensland Eye Institute (QEI).
Dr Shadforth’s research project is titled Investigating the potential for scar-less wound healing in age-related macular degeneration. It aims to inform the development of new, sustainable treatments for AMD patients.
Late-stage AMD includes the development of sub-retinal fibrosis, and nearly half of eyes treated with anti-VEGF injections develop blinding scars within two years of treatment. Dr Shadforth will investigate the cells and mechanisms responsible for scar tissue formation under the macula, using emergent technologies and important clues from studies on human tissues capable of regenerative healing.
Dr Zhichao Wu
Dr Zhichao Wu, is an optometrist and clinical researcher at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), Department of Ophthalmology, University of Melbourne, Australia. He completed his PhD at CERA and continued as a research fellow there, before taking up a visiting research fellowship position at The University of California, San Diego and Columbia University.
Dr Wu’s research project is titled Novel prognostic imaging biomarkers for improved risk stratification in the early stages of age-related macular degeneration.
He aims to investigate better methods for detecting and monitoring AMD using optical coherence tomography (OCT), and artificial intelligence. The study will obtain imaging from 200 participants with intermediate AMD, which will inform clinical practice.