It’s official, Australian researcher and entrepreneur for eye health solutions Professor Brien Holden is a ‘legend’. So says the American Optometric Association (AOA), which represents over 35,000 members from the optometry profession in the U.S. and conferred the honour at a special awards reception on Friday.
Hosting its 116th annual congress this year in San Diego, the AOA’s contact lens and cornea section recognised Holden for his contributions to the culture of contact lenses through his leadership and dedication. The award distinguishes individuals who have demonstrated a depth and passion toward contact lenses, the cornea or refractive technology.
Holden masterminded a collaborative program that led to the development of the silicone hydrogel contact lens, a breakthrough material which today accounts for more than 50% of all contact lenses sold worldwide. He also drove the development of soft toric lenses for correction of astigmatism and several further generations of silicone hydrogel lenses including multifocals for correction of presbyopia.
With the aim of addressing the myopia ‘epidemic’ and concerns about the growing threat of blindness associated with myopia, his attention is now firmly on the development of a contact lens that controls the progression of the condition and greatly reduces the risk of potentially blinding conditions resulting from high levels of myopia.
Professor Holden was humbled by the acknowledgement. “A legend – I don't think so. I have just translated the good work of our people – for a long time,” he said.
Holden’s journey began in the early 1970s at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, when as a young lecturer he and several postgraduate students began research to determine what was needed in contact lenses to maintain eye health. The group managed to attract the interest of other researchers to work with them, expanding beyond the original goal of understanding the effects of contact lenses on the cornea to include all aspects of contact lenses – from lens design, material properties and performance to the effects of a wide range of ocular devices, procedures and contact lens solutions on the eye.
He gained fame after establishing the Cornea and Contact Lens Research Unit (CCLRU) at UNSW which become an international hub for multidisciplinary research into contact lenses. Expanding on this research focus through two government supported co-operative research centres he established, and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, the collaborative spirit continued and he built vital links with leading research and industry organisations around the world to take on some of the major challenges facing optometry.
But the fascination with contact lenses extended beyond research and development of new products. Holden was instrumental in creating and guiding several organisations, including the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE), and practitioner education programs, that have promoted improved standards of contact lens practice around the world over the last 20 years. He has also provided countless opportunities for postgraduate education in contact lens research to students from around the globe.
Stephen Davis, Brien Holden Vision Institute, (02) 9385 7356, +61 450 661 695 firstname.lastname@example.org