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New researchers announced for Australia’s major eye diseases

image-tools (99)CERA is delighted to announce an impressive array of early career clinician scientists and researchers to join the Centre for Clinical Research Excellence (CCRE) as new research fellows.

The CCRE was established in 2009 with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to conduct translational clinical research in major eye diseases.

Four eye diseases that cause the majority of vision loss in Australia – age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma – impose a significant socio-economic burden, costing our nation around $10 billion a year, as well as impacting seriously on the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people affected.

The CCRE funds a world leading, broad-based, clinical and translational research program in Melbourne and Sydney to tackle these eye diseases. Research from the CCRE is translated directly into clinical practice to improve outcomes for patients.

Dr Siva Balasubramanian (centre of image)
Dr Balasubramanian trained as an Ophthalmologist in India and, recently completed his PhD at the University of New South Wales. He has joined the CCRE program to continue his research in ocular genetics, in particular to use advanced genomics (mapping a patient’s genetic make-up) for AMD. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among Australians over the age of 50 and this disease can be caused by a number of different faulty genes. Once we identify which faulty gene (or genes) a patient has, we can personalise their treatment and achieve better health outcomes.

Dr Eva Fenwick (right of image)
Dr Fenwick was recently awarded her PhD with the University of Melbourne Department of Ophthalmology. This fellowship will enable Eva to continue looking at diabetic retinopathy and patient reported outcomes. Her work will include the development of a novel diabetic retinopathy health literacy screening tool to assess patients’ understanding of their eye disease; and the development of a utility measure for diabetic retinopathy which will allow the cost-effectiveness of new treatments for the disease to be determined.

Dr Tony Frugier
Dr Frugier is a molecular neuroscientist from the University of Melbourne Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience. Dr Frugier recently completed his three-month CCRE fellowship working on the database of translational induced pluripotent stem cells studies (IPSCDB) developed by Dr Alex Hewitt. The IPSCDB is a database of all pluripotent stem cell lines that have been used to specifically investigate a clinical application, such as a diagnostic or therapeutic aspect of a disease or illness. Collating all this information in one place will help standardise the way results are reported and guide and facilitate future research.

Dr Thanh Nguyen
Dr Nguyen completed his PhD with the University of Melbourne Department of Ophthalmology in 2009. His research as part of the CCRE team will investigate the underlying mechanisms of the retinal vasculature changes in patients with pre-diabetes, diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy. This research will be used to help develop early strategies for early detection of diabetic retinopathy.

Dr Sukhpal Singh Sandhu
Dr Sandhu is an ophthalmologist at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne and a part-time researcher with CERA’s Clinical Trials Research Unit. This fellowship will allow Dr Sandhu to continue his research on the imaging of retinal vascular disease, particularly in diabetic retinopathy, from screening and detection through to assessment of novel medical and surgical treatments.

Dr Sanj Wickremasinghe
Dr Wickremasinghe is an ophthalmologist at The Eye and Ear Hospital and a part-time researcher with CERA’s Clinical Trial Research Unit. Dr Wickremasinghe will conduct a project to determine if the cytokine profile in the eye can help to predict which patients with diabetic retinopathy will respond to intravitreal anti-VEGF injections (eg ranibizumab).

Dr Ehud Zamir
Dr Zamir is an ophthalmologist at The Eye and Ear Hospital. His fellowship will support continued research on diagnostic tools, the collection and analysis of diagnostic errors, and understanding the processes of decision-making to reduce surgical errors in ophthalmology.

Dr Sophia Xie (left of image) will provide statistical support to the CCRE and CCRE fellows.