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    Funded projects

    MDFA's Research Grants Program has grown to become the largest non-government source of research grant funding for macular disease in Australia.

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    Since 2011 the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) Research Grants Program has awarded Research Grants and Fellowships to the following recipients. The grants support leading researchers in macular disease as well as mid and early career researchers.

    2021 Grants Recipients

    In 2021, MDFA allocated more than $1 million through two distinct funding streams.

    Under the MDFA Research Grants Program, a total pool of just under $935,000 was allocated to six research projects.

    In addition, a total pool of just over $90,000 was allocated to two early-career researchers as part of the new Grant Family Fund. It is the first allocation under the Grant Family Fund, which has been established to support innovative ‘blue sky’ research. 

    2021 MDFA Research Grants Program Recipients

    • Associate Professor Chi Luu

      A/Prof Chi Luu is from the Centre for Eye Research Australia.

      Project title: Relationships between choriocapillaris endothelial function, photo receptor health and AMD phenotypes.

      This project will use an innovative imaging technique to improve our understanding of the causes of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and help develop new treatment strategies.”

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    • Professor Justine Smith

      Prof Justine Smith is from Flinders University.

      Project title: Targeting inflammatory cytokines in macular oedema.

      This project will use human eye cells to create disease models in the laboratory. It will then use these to explore the possibility of treating macular oedema by blocking the actions of molecules called ‘cytokines’. Macular oedema is responsible for sight loss in diverse macular conditions – from diabetic eye disease to retinitis pigmentosa.

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    • Associate Professor Matthew Simunovic

      A/Prof Matthew Simunovic is from the Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney.

      Project title: Optogenetic restoration of vision in macular degeneration with high-sensitivity Type I and Type II opsins.

      This project aims to eventually restore sight lost to macular degeneration using a type of gene therapy called “optogenetics”. Optogenetic gene therapy makes the ordinarily light-insensitive nerve cells that survive in advanced macular degeneration sensitive to light: it can therefore be considered a biological equivalent of the bionic retina.

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    • Ms Diana Tang

      Ms Tang is from Macquarie University.

      Project title: The development, implementation and evaluation of an online Movement, Interaction and Nutrition for Greater Lifestyles in the Elderly (MINGLE) program for people with age-related macular degeneration.

      This study aims to improve the mental and physical health of people living with age-related macular degeneration through the MINGLE program. The program is led by an accredited practicing dietician and a physical activity researcher.

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    • Dr Sheela Kumaran

      Dr Kumaran is from the University of New South Wales

      Project title: Measuring the breadth and the depth of the quality-of-life impacts caused by age-related macular degeneration.

      This project aims to improve the way the impact of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) on quality of life is measured. This will help assess the effectiveness of various interventions. It will also help our understanding of the economic impacts of AMD.

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    • Dr Yvette Wooff

      Dr Wooff is from Australian National University.

      Project title: Treat yourself! The use of therapeutically-loaded extracellular vesicles as a novel gene therapy for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration.

      This project will investigate the possibility of restoring communication between cells by therapeutically supplementing the natural molecular message of retinal health as a therapy. It is hoped that doing so will help maintain retinal health and slow the progression of retinal degeneration.

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    2021 Grant Family Fund Recipients

    • Dr Ting Zhang

      Dr Ting Zhang is from the Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney.

      Project title: Activating endogenous phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH) to treat age-related macular degeneration with the help of a Müller cell-specific lipid nanocarrier.

      The project will look at age-related macular degeneration at a cellular level. It will consider the role of an important enzyme in combating oxidative and mitochondrial stress to particular retinal cells.

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    • Dr Anai Gonzalez-Cordero

      Dr Anai Gonzalez-Cordero is from the University of Sydney.

      Project title: Creating a macula in retinal organoids.

      This project will create a macula-containing organoid, ‘mini organs’, that will then be used as perfect laboratory models for macular degeneration.

      Macular tissue can be used as a source of cells for replacement therapies and used to test the efficacy of potential therapies. Promising to ameliorate sight loss of millions of people.

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    2019 Research Grants Program recipients

    MDFA awarded a total pool of $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 awards were announced by His Excellency the Honourable David Hurley, Governor-General of Australia. The investments were made in three very different but equally important projects.

    • Professor Alex Brown

      Prof Brown is from the Aboriginal Health Equity Theme at the 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 oedema (DMO) among Aboriginal people.

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    • Dr Audra Shadforth

      Dr Shadforth is from the School of Environment and Science.

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

      Late-stage AMD includes the eventual development of sub-retinal fibrosis, and nearly half of eyes treated with anti-VEGF injections will continue to 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.

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    • Dr Zhichao Wu

      Dr Wu is from the 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.

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    2017 Research Grants Program recipients

    His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor-General of Australia awarded three research grants totalling $600,000 to three of Australia’s leading researchers on behalf of Macular Disease Foundation Australia in November 2017.

    • Professor Alice Pébay

      Institution: Department of Anatomy and Neurosciences, University of Melbourne

      Project title: Modelling geographic atrophy using human pluripotent stem cells

    • Professor Erica Fletcher

      Institution: Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, University of Melbourne

      Project title: Targeting monocyte phagocytosis to reduce progression of age-related macular degeneration

    • Dr Fred Chen

      Institution: Centre for Ophthalmology and Visual Science, The University of Western Australia   

      Project title: Stargardt macular degeneration – finding new genetic mutations and preparing patients for clinical trials

    2016 Research Grants Program recipients

    Two projects received grants totalling $130,000 from MDFA in 2016.

    • Associate Professor Wilson Heriot

      Institution: Department of Optometry & Vision Sciences, University of Melbourne

      Project title: Plaquenil and chloroquine phototoxicity

    • Professor Bamini Gopinath

      Institution: Centre for Vision Research, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, University of Sydney

      Project title: ‘Caring for the Carer’: implementing a comprehensive support service model for family caregivers looking after persons with age-related macular degeneration

      Prof Gopinath’s study is supported by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Project Grant.

    2015 Research Grants Program recipients

    The Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove awarded Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s 2015 grants to world-leading Australian researchers in October 2015.

    MDFA Research Grants funded three projects worth $700,000 in total. In addition, there were two Blackmores Macular Disease Foundation Australia Research Grants – each worth $100,000 – for research specifically into dietary and lifestyle aspects of macular degeneration.

    An additional $400,000 grant was awarded as a combined Macular Disease Foundation Australia Research Grant / Blackmores Macular Disease Foundation Australia Research Grant.

    The 2015 grants totalled $1.3 million.

    • Professor Mark Gillies

      Institution: Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney

      Project title: How to get the best outcomes of treatment of neovascular age-related macular degeneration with vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors: real world evidence

    • Associate Professor Chi Luu

      Institution: Centre for Eye Research Australia

      Project title: Static and dynamic retinal function topography in early stages of age-related macular degeneration

    • Associate Professor Gerald Liew

      Institution: Centre for Vision Research, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, University of Sydney

      Project title: Deciphering the metabolomics signature of age-related macular degeneration to discover pathogenic pathways

    • Associate Professor Isabelle Jalbert

      Institution: School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of New South Wales

      Project title: Eye care practitioners’ and patients’ perspectives on age-related macular degeneration; identifying barriers and facilitators to optimal age-related macular degeneration care

    • Associate Professor Laura Downie

      Institution: Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, University of Melbourne

      Project title: Advancing eye care for people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) through integrating clinical research and its translation

    • Professor Steven Krilis

      Institution: Infectious Diseases, Immunology & Sexual Health, St George Hospital, University of New South Wales   

      Project title: Novel mechanisms of complement control protein dysregulation contributing to age-related macular degeneration pathogenesis and progression: CFH and beta 2-Glycoprotein 1

    2014 Research Grants Program recipient

    This $100,000 grant over two years was funded by Blackmores Institute, Blackmore Foundation and Macular Disease Foundation Australia as one of the grants under MDFA’s Research Grants Program.

    • Professor Bamini Gopinath: Blackmores Dr Paul Beaumont Research Fellowship

      Institution: Centre for Vision Research, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, University of Sydney

      Project title: Establishing the dietary and lifestyle risk factor profile of a large cohort of clinic patients presenting with late AMD

    2013 Research Grants Program recipients

    On World Sight Day in October 2013, MDFA awarded Research Grants, totalling $600,000 over three years, at an event held at the Sydney Opera House. 

    • Professor Erica Fletcher

      Institution: Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, University of Melbourne

      Project title: Purinergic receptors and early AMD: a novel mechanism and biomarker

    • Professor Damien Harkin

      Institution: School of Biomedical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology

      Project title: A novel tissue substitute for repairing the outer retina in patients with AMD

    2012 Research Grants Program recipients

    As part of the Macular Disease Foundation Australia Research Grants program, in 2012 MDFA awarded the Blackmores Dr Paul Beaumont Research Fellowship. This Fellowship was launched in 2011 in recognition of the Foundation’s Founding Director, Dr Paul Beaumont AO. The Fellowship was supported by MDFA, Blackmores and the Marcus Blackmore Foundation.

    • Professor Bamini Gopinath: Blackmores Dr Paul Beaumont Research Fellowship

      Institution: Centre for Vision Research, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, University of Sydney

      Project title: Targeted Actions to Identify Modifiable Nutritional and Lifestyle Factors for AMD among Persons in the BMES and other Population Studies

    2011 inaugural Research Grants Program recipients

    In 2011 the Foundation awarded its inaugural research grants, totalling $694,000 over three years, at an event hosted by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, CVO, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

    Additionally, MDFA awarded its inaugural 12-month Blackmores Paul Beaumont Research Fellowship. The Research Fellowship was launched in recognition of MDFA’s Founding Director, Dr Paul Beaumont AO.

    The Fellowship was awarded to researchers based in eligible Australian institutions to pursue research into nutritional and/or lifestyle aspects of age-related macular degeneration. Funding was provided by MDFA’s Research Grants Program and Blackmores.

    • Professor Paul Mitchell

      Institution: Centre for Vision Research, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, University of Sydney

      Project title: Comparison of the risk factor, quality of life and utility value profile of a large age-related macular degeneration patient sample with a population-based cohort

    • Professor Robyn Guymer

      Institution: Centre for Eye Research Australia

      Project title: Improved characterisation of high-risk phenotypes in early age-related macular degeneration, employing novel imaging and functional modalities

    • Dr Liubov Robman: Blackmores Dr Paul Beaumont Research Fellowship

      Institution: Centre for Eye Research Australia

      Project title: Dietary patterns and risk of age-related macular degeneration

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