The Foundation was honoured to have the Hon. Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Health and Minister for Sport, announce the Foundation's successful recipients of the Macular Disease Foundation Australia Research Grants at the Sydney Opera House on Wednesday 9 October.
The Minister awarded the grants, on behalf of the Foundation, in the famous Utzon room of the Opera House against the backdrop of the “Through his Eyes” photo tribute to Sydney Opera House designer Jørn Utzon who lived with macular degeneration in his later life. The photos were generously supplied by his son Macular Disease Foundation Ambassador Jan Utzon, who along with Ambassador Jean Kittson, shared their stories of living with macular degeneration. Also on display was a pair of Jørn Utzon’s glasses donated by Jan Utzon to the Foundation.
The two successful recipients of the prestigious Macular Disease Foundation Australia Research Grants, totaling $600,000 over three years, were Associate Professor Erica Fletcher of the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, The University of Melbourne and Associate Professor Damien Harkin School of Biomedical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology and the Queensland Eye Institute.
Associate Professor Fletcher will undertake research to examine how the removal of debris in the eyes changes as we age and this work will be crucial for developing new treatments for macular degeneration. Associate Professor Harkin will examine a protein extracted from silk as a form of scaffold on which to grow new retinal tissue, which may eventually help maintain or restore vision.
Julie Heraghty, Chief Executive Officer of the Macular Disease Foundation Australia, welcomed invited guests including; the Hon Peter Dutton, Minister for Health, Minister for Sport; Louise Herron, Chief Executive Officer, Sydney Opera House; Mr Andrew Fraser MP; Foundation Ambassador Jean Kittson and parents Elaine and Roy Kittson; Foundation board directors; sponsors and volunteers to the special event.
Macular Disease Foundation Australia Ambassador Jean Kittson, and her mother Elaine who also lives macular degeneration, generously shared with guests the impact that the disease has had on their lives.
Julie Heraghty highlighted the importance of funding future research through the Macular Disease Foundation Australia Research Grants Program and thanked all who have supported the efforts of the Foundation.
Jan Utzon, who was unable to attend, said from his home in Denmark, “My father, Jørn Utzon, was a visionary man and witnessing his sight deteriorate from macular degeneration was heartbreaking. I can only urge everyone to have their eyes tested and macula checked, and very importantly, urge our society to support the Macular Disease Foundation Australia in its giving to research so that we can find a cure for this disease, which unnecessarily disables so many of our citizens".