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Philanthropists support trial of an eye test for Alzheimer’s disease

The willingness of Australian philanthropists to back an idea ‘out of left field’ will see an innovative eye test to detect Alzheimer’s disease trialled on patients this year.

The work of CERA researchers Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden and Dr Xavier Hadoux hit the headlines in June, when they received funding through the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s Diagnostics Accelerator program.

The foundation – backed by a group of US philanthropists including Bill Gates, Leonard Lauder, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos and the Dolby Foundation – funds innovative ways of diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.

The funding will fast track CERA’s research, enabling the technology to be tested on participants in the Healthy Brain Project, an innovative study conducted by our colleagues at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

Backing a bold idea

Associate Professor van Wijngaarden says the eye test – which uses technology similar to that utilised by satellites – has the potential to revolutionise the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

However, it’s been a long research journey and recent advances could not have occurred without the initial generous support of Australian philanthropists Baillieu Myer, Samantha Baillieu and Jeanne Pratt via the Yulgilbar Alzheimer’s Research Program.

Other vital support has also been provided by the HL Hecht Trust, managed by Perpetual, the Viertel Foundation, managed by Equity Trustees, the Joan Margaret Ponting Trust, Coopers Brewery Trust, Cylite CEO Steve Frisken and National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation.

Yulgilbar Foundation Chair Samantha Baillieu AM says the Yulgilbar Alzheimer’s Research Program – an initiative of her parents Sarah and Baillieu Myer – is proud to have been involved with the project from the beginning.

“Associate Professor van Wijngaarden first came to the attention of Yulgilbar’s scientific advisors and, with another philanthropist, we assisted with the purchase of the non-invasive retinal scan camera.” she says.

“The appeal of funding this project was firstly, the camera was not available to patients in Australia and secondly, we knew that through Peter and his team’s skills that the research could be taken all the way through.

“It was real, practical and offered an insight that otherwise had not been available, this resonated with our approach and ethos.”

To learn more about this trial and how to get involved, visit the Healthy Brain Project  or email healthybrainproject@florey.edu.au

This story appears in the spring 2019 issue of Visionary magazine. Download a pdf copy or subscribe to receive free in the mail.


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