Dr Flora Hui, Research Fellow at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), is the recipient of Glaucoma Australia’s 2020 ‘Quinlivan’ Research Grants Program.
Announced by Glaucoma Australia and its Patron, the Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency the Honourable David Hurley, the grant will help fund a world-first clinical trial led by CERA, in which Dr Hui will investigate whether daily doses of vitamin B3 (nicotinamide) could provide long-term protection against nerve cell damage and prevent blindness in glaucoma.
There is a lot of interest… in medicines that might help protect the optic nerve from eye pressure-related glaucoma damage. Vitamin B3 is an example of this
“I am especially pleased to share this exciting announcement today, on World Sight Day,” said the Governor-General. “I extend my congratulations to Dr Hui and my sincere thanks to all of the dedicated Australian glaucoma researchers, for their work in the fight against glaucoma blindness.”
Dr Hui led the earlier study that was first to show that vitamin B3 led to early and significant improvements in visual function in people with glaucoma. Now, in partnership with Glaucoma Australia and international researchers, Dr Flora Hui and Professor Keith Martin will conduct a two-year study to conclusively determine whether vitamin B3 can delay disease progression and thus be taken by patients on an ongoing basis. Independent of lowering eye pressure, vitamin B3 could be the first treatment that protects nerve cells in glaucoma, changing the way we treat and manage the disease.
Direct Impact on Patient Care
Glaucoma Australia President, Associate Professor, Simon Skalicky said, “Over the last 10 to 15 years there has been a shift from looking at the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of glaucoma, which is still important, towards research that is focused on having a direct impact on patient care. We are seeing this in the selection of this year’s ‘Quinlivan’ Research Grant recipient, Dr Flora Hui; as well as last year’s recipients.”
“There is a lot of interest amongst glaucoma researchers, in medicines that might help protect the optic nerve from eye pressure-related glaucoma damage. Vitamin B3 is an example of this, and certainly there is much research value in exploring its potential benefits and uses,” Associate Professor Skalicky added.
Glaucoma Australia will fund $200,000 over two years, to support Dr Hui’s TAMING Glaucoma trial (Targeting Metabolic Insufficiency in Glaucoma with Nicotinamide) which could lead to the first therapy that promotes retinal ganglion cell health and survival in glaucoma.
Dr Hui explains, “Many high-risk glaucoma patients do not respond to intraocular pressure (IOP)-lowering treatments, and can continue to progress to blindness despite well-controlled IOP. In these patients, retinal ganglion cells are predicted to have increased vulnerability to risk factors such as mitochondrial dysfunction. Neuroprotective treatments (mechanisms and strategies that aim to protect the nervous system from injury and damage), that directly enhance retinal ganglion cell survival and function, will transform patient management and are of great therapeutic need.”
Professor Allison McKendrick, Glaucoma Australia’s Independent Research Panel Chair and Head of Department, Optometry & Vision Sciences, at the University of Melbourne, said submissions to the ‘Quinlivan’ Research Grant scheme in 2020 were all of very high quality.
“It was wonderful to see such strong interest from the research community in pursuit of new knowledge designed to improve the lives of those with glaucoma,” she said.
“Nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, has the potential to be a safe and effective complement therapy to current glaucoma treatments and delay glaucoma progression in the longer term. The trial will involve 150 participants, diagnosed and treated for primary open angle glaucoma and is expected to run for three years” said Glaucoma Australia Research Committee Chair, James Christensen.
The next round of grants for research commencing in 2022 is expected to open on 14 June 2021, and close on 1 September 2021.
Contributions to this research are welcome by making a tax deductible donation to Glaucoma Australia.