Macular Disease Foundation Australia awards $600,000 to researchers on World Sight Day

MDFA has awarded a further $600,000 to three leading researchers in a prestigious event held at Admiralty House, the Governor-General of Australia’s residence in Sydney, on World Sight Day (10 October).

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.

Macular disease is the country’s leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss, affecting over 1.7 million people. MDFA has committed $4.2 million to cutting-edge research since the program’s launch in 2011.

“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.”

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). 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.

MDFA is the leading not-for-profit organisation funding macular disease research in Australia.

Grant recipient

Professor Alex Brown

Aboriginal Health Equity Theme, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

Project title: Defining the Risk and Epidemiology of Aboriginal Australian Macular Disease: The DREAM Project

This 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 edema (DME) among Aboriginal people.

Dr Audra Shadforth

School of Environment and Science, Griffith University and Queensland Eye Institute

Project title: Investigating the potential for scar-less wound healing in age-related macular degeneration

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. This research 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. This study aims to inform the development of new, sustainable treatments for AMD patients.

Dr Zhichao Wu

Centre for Eye Research Australia

Project title: Novel prognostic imaging biomarkers for improved risk stratification in the early stages of age-related macular degeneration

This research aims to investigate better methods for detecting and monitoring AMD using optical coherence tomography (OCT), an imaging technique, and artificial intelligence. The study will obtain imaging from 200 participants with intermediate AMD, which will inform clinical practice.