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CERA researchers win $750,000 to help end endemic eye disease in remote and regional communities

Researchers from the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) have won $750,000 after competing in today’s finals of the 2016 Google Impact Challenge held in Sydney.

The prize money will go towards research for the creation of Vision at Home, an evidence-based software algorithm that provides a method for patients to test their eyesight anywhere there is access to a webcam and the Internet.
“I am thrilled our proposal received such a positive response from the competition judges and the general public,” Professor Mingguang He, Principal Investigator at CERA and Professor of Ophthalmic Epidemiology at the University of Melbourne said.

Google Impact Challenge 2016 winners. L to R: Hello Sunday Morning, The George Institute for Global Health, Dr William Yan of CERA, Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy Australia.

“Our project is a simple hand-held solution for those who live far away from eye specialists and has the potential to help millions of people not only in Australia but worldwide.“I also want to thank everyone who voted for our project and Google for their extraordinary generosity,” he said.

CERA’s Project Lead and PhD candidate, Dr William Yan who presented the project to the Google judges and received the award said he was ‘absolutely stoked’ to win. “It is just sinking in,” he said immediately after hearing the results.

“Now the goal is to create the solution and help those who can’t easily get to treatment,” Dr Yan said.“94% of blindness or vision loss in Indigenous Australians is preventable or treatable and Vision at Home will bring testing to areas with poor access and benefit groups with great potential for sight-saving interventions, including children, the elderly and Indigenous Australians. It can also be used overseas in remote locations.”

The largest challenge to preventable eye disease is the lack of access to eye care services in primary healthcare settings, particularly in regional, remote and Indigenous communities. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates over 600,000 Australians live with vision impairment, a number projected to increase to 1 million by 2024.

CERA plans to first trial the technology with post-operative patients from the Eye and Ear Hospital, with elderly and disability patients across Victoria, and in schools across indigenous communities.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Mark Pearce on mark.pearce@unimelb.edu.au or 03 9929 8705 or 0423 783 756.