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Fellowship to boost innovation in sight-saving treatments

image-tools (39)The innovative work of ophthalmologist and researcher Dr Hong Zhang has been recognised by the award of the Annemarie Mankiewicz-Zelkin Fellowship.

The award is a significant boost to Dr Zhang’s work in developing an effective alternative to drug delivery into the eye to replace the current technology of direct injections into the eye.

Originally from Harbin, Dr Zhang came to Melbourne in 2010 and is head of the Drug Delivery Research Unit at the Centre for Eye Research Australia and the University of Melbourne Department of Ophthalmology. She has published more than 50 papers in key academic journals and to date received over 20 awards and prizes.

Treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in Australia, currently relies on regular injections into the eye. While this treatment is often effective in stabilizing vision, its potential side effects include a risk of infection. For patients, it is uncomfortable or painful.

“Existing AMD therapies are also expensive, currently costing an estimated $1 billion per annum,” said Dr Zhang.

“A critical step in successfully translating promising drugs from the bench to the bedside is identifying the best drug delivery route.

“We are investigating novel ultrasound drug delivery devices and nanoparticle technologies. For glaucoma, we are examining intraocular implants as an alternative to eye drops.

“Early testing has been promising. If the new drug delivery systems prove successful, they will provide a revolution in the practical management of many eye diseases.”
The Annemarie Mankiewicz-Zelkin Fellowship in Ophthalmology was endowed through a generous bequest to the University of Melbourne. Dr Zhang is the third Fellow to receive this prestigious award, after Dr Lyndell Lim (2007-08) and Dr Jonathan Ruddle (2009-10).