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2023 Research Grant Program recipients announced

His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and Mrs Hurley host Macular Disease 2023 Research Grant Awards Program.

Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) has awarded more than $700,000 in research funding to six promising projects building the knowledge bank of understanding in macular disease. The latest funding round now brings MDFA’s commitment to macular disease research to $5.8 million across 35 projects since 2011. MDFA is Australia’s largest source of research funding in the field of macular disease outside of government.

This year’s funding round is supporting three projects examining atrophic age-related macular degeneration, also known as geographic atrophy, for which there are no currently approved treatment options in Australia. Geographic atrophy is a significant cause of vision loss and blindness in Australia and has many unanswered research questions. One project includes a stem-cell derived modelling of geographic atrophy, and the second will address hyperspectral imaging for detecting and monitoring geographic atrophy.

Other areas of funded research seek deeper insights into sight-threatening diabetic macular ischaemia, enhanced diagnostic approaches to reduce misdiagnosis of macular disease, and an evaluation of high-density lipoprotein levels that might identify people with high-risk phenotypes of age-related macular degeneration. The function of mitochondria, the energy-producing centres in our cells, are the focus of research by second-time funding recipient Dr Gerald Liew of the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, University of Sydney.

The quality of research applications was high, and subjected to a rigorous assessment process based on NHMRC criteria to ensure successful projects meet the highest scientific standards. Joining MDFA’s Expert Review Panel and International Peer Reviewers in the 2023 grant selection process was our Community Review Panel comprising people caring for or living with macular disease.

MDFA CEO Dr Kathy Chapman says the inclusion of the Community Review Panel in the grant funding decision process ensures that we keep the community living with macular disease at the centre of the work we do.

“Fourteen people joined the Community Review Panel and – like the Expert Research Panel – reviewed and weighted the value of the applications according to a set of community-specific criteria. The Community Review Panel helped us to understand the areas of research people with lived experience considered the most important. At the end of the process, we found the researchers and the community members were very aligned in their recommendations, which is a testament to the quality of the funded projects.

“Our research grants program is funded through the generosity of our community, so it is very appropriate that our community has a say in how their funding is invested”

MDFA CEO Dr Kathy Chapman

You can view the official media release here.

Posted: 16 June 2023