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Principal Investigators

Affiliated with the University of MelbourneUniversity of Melbourne Logo


Image of Penny Allen

Associate Professor Penny Allen

Lead Investigator

Associate Professor Penny Allen leads the bionic eye research at CERA. Her team has developed a next-generation bionic eye implant which is now in trial and has been implanted in four patients. It offers the patients the possibility of using the device at home and creates a sense of sight. Associate Professor Allen is also working on new trials for patients with poor vision due to inherited disease.

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Associate Professor Michael Coote


Lead Investigator

Associate Professor Michael Coote is a Lead Investigator at CERA and the Clinical Director of Ophthalmology at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

Michael has been researching surgical solutions for Glaucoma for over 20 years and is a consultant to the Glaucoma Clinic at Hospital. He has presented at local and International meetings on Glaucoma Surgery and new techniques.

Michael, with Professor Jonathan Crowston, has developed the GONE online teaching and benchmarking tool which is free and has now been translated into Spanish and Chinese. The GONE program has had over 2500 Eye Care professionals enrol and use the program – far ahead of any other teaching program in Ophthalmology.

In addition, Michael has a strong interest in Clinical Quality and Audit is the Chair of the Board Quality Committee at Mercy Health.

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Professor Mark Daniell


Head, Corneal Research

Mark Daniell is the Head of the Corneal Unit at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and Associate Professor at CERA and the University of Melbourne. His main research interests are in cornea and external disease and stem cell surgery, as well as surgery of the cornea and lens.

Mark’s research at CERA is into corneal stem cell transplantation. Stem cells from various parts of the eye can be cultivated and expanded in the laboratory. Successfully transplanting these delicate cell layers requires the development of thin, transparent, biocompatible membranes. Together with collaborators at the University of Melbourne’s Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department and at the Mawson Institute in Adelaide, Mark and his team are developing novel substrates for the transfer of stem cells into the eye.  Clinical trials into treatment of limbal stem cell failure secondary to chemical burns are due to start later this year.

His other research interest is in ocular infection. The current project is looking at innate immunity in the eye, in particular the role of mannin-binding lectin (MBL) in initiating the complement cascade.

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Dr Thomas Edwards


Lead Investigator, Retinal Gene Therapy Research

Dr Thomas Edwards’ research looks at the potential of gene therapy to cure inherited retinal diseases. His research aims to establish the infrastructure and knowledge base necessary to develop treatments that may halt or partially reverse some inherited causes of blindness.

His research has been supported by an ORIA grant and he’s the recipient of the University of Melbourne Annemarie Manciewicz-Zeldin Fellowship.


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Professor Robyn Guymer AM


Head, Macular Research and Deputy Director, CERA

Robyn Guymer is Professor of Ophthalmology at Melbourne University and a Deputy Director of the Centre for Eye Research Australia. She is also a senior retinal specialist at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. She is a clinician scientist who leads a team of 20 researchers primarily investigating Age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

She has investigated genetic and environmental risk factors for AMD, predictors of response to treatments for late AMD, as well as being a principal investigator in many industry sponsored trials. She is on several pharmaceutical advisory boards and is part of the Mactel consortium, the Beckman/Ryan AMD initiative (USA) and the International Classification of Atrophy (CAM) group.

She is currently investigating new strategies for treating early stages of AMD with a nanosecond laser and is working to identify novel imaging and functional biomarkers and surrogate endpoints to improve the feasibility of conducting early intervention trials. She is a member of the Macular Society and an inaugural fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

Professor Guymer was named a Member in the General Division (AM) in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, recognised for her significant service to medicine in the field of ophthalmology, particularly age related macular degeneration as a clinician, academic and researcher. She was also awarded the NHMRC’s 2016 Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship for the top ranked female research fellowship in clinical medicine.

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Professor Mingguang He


Principal Investigator

Professor Mingguang He is the Professor of Ophthalmic Epidemiology at the University of Melbourne. He undertook his medical training in China, holds a Masters degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and PhD in ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

Professor He is a global expert in vision-related clinical and epidemiologic research. He led several important population-based studies in China, including the first glaucoma survey and a large-scale twin study in China. He serves editorial board for several important journals, including Ophthalmology, PLoS One, Molecular Vision and APJO. He is currently the deputy secretary-general of Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology.

His research interests include clinical and epidemiological research, randomized clinical trials, twin studies and imaging technology. His current research priority is big data and precision medicine.

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Associate Professor Wilson Heriot


Principal Investigator, Vitreoretinal Research

Associate Professor Wilson Heriot is a Principal Investigator in vitreoretinal surgery at CERA conducting a translational project to bring his method of improved retinal detachment repair into routine clinical care. This project was awarded a United States Government Congressionally Awarded Grant of $1.48 million and is being conducted in collaboration with researchers in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, University of Melbourne where he also has an appointment as Associate Professor.

In 2005, A/Prof Heriot developed a simple outpatient procedure called pneumatic displacement for treating macula haemorrhages (a major cause of blindness in AMD) which remains widely used around the world. He is also investigating methods for clinically detecting the earliest loss of function due to diabetes. As this precedes the structural changes such as bleeding, it should be possible to alert both the patient and their doctors of the need to improve control and other risk factors and prevent blindness.

Clinically, A/Prof Heriot is the director of Retinology Institute, a private practice in Glen Iris where he specialises in the treatment and management of medical and surgical retinal disorders.

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Professor Alex Hewitt

BMedSci (Hons), MBBS, PhD

Head, Clinical Genetics

Prof Alex Hewitt is a clinician-scientist and leads Clinical Genetics at CERA. During medical training he completed a BMedSci (Hons) degree investigating the outcomes of cataract surgery for people living in remote areas of the Northern Territory. He obtained his PhD investigating the molecular and phenotypic associations for open angle glaucoma from Flinders University of South Australia in 2009. Alex completed formal Ophthalmology training at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in 2012, and then spent one year on secondment at the Lions Eye Institute in Western Australia. He returned to Melbourne in 2013 to take up the position with CERA’s Clinical Genetics.

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Dr Nathan Kerr

Clinical Lead for Glaucoma Surgical Trials

Dr Nathan Kerr is motivated to help people with glaucoma save their sight
by finding better treatments. Utilising new methods of medication delivery and microscopic devices, Dr Kerr is investigating a new implant that may replace daily eye drops as well as safer surgical procedures to treat glaucoma.

Isabel Lopez Sanchez






Dr Isabel Lopez Sanchez


Head, Mitochondrial Biology and Disease

Dr Isabel Lopez Sanchez is a Principal Investigator at CERA and the University of Melbourne. Dr Lopez Sanchez completed her PhD in 2014 at the University of Western Australia, where she characterised the proteins responsible for the processing of mitochondrial precursor transcripts, a critical step in the regulation of the mitochondrial genome. She conducted postdoctoral work at Karolinska Institute, Sweden as a Wenner-Gren Foundation Fellow in 2019, and has previously conducted research in the USA, Spain and France.

Isabel’s work is currently supported by a Mito Foundation Fellowship (2020-2022) to investigate the protective pathways that prevent vision loss in Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy. Her research is interested in the mechanisms that regulate mitochondrial biology and how mitochondrial dysfunction can result in neurodegeneration.

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Associate Professor Lyndell Lim


Head, Clinical Trials Research

A/Prof Lyndell Lim, a Uveitis and Medical Retina Subspecialist, leads the Clinical Trials Research at CERA. After completing her Ophthalmology training in Melbourne, A/Prof Lim then completed two Fellowships – one in Medical Retina at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and one in Uveitis/Ocular Inflammatory Disease at the Casey Eye Institute, Portland, Oregon, USA.

A/Prof Lim’s main research interests are clinical studies in the field of uveitis and ocular immunology, and diabetic retinopathy. Her team runs both investigator initiated and sponsored clinical trials that aim to investigate new treatments in a variety of ophthalmic disease.

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Associate Professor Chi Luu

BOrth(Hons), GradDip(Epi&Biostats), PhD

Principal Investigator, Macular Research

Associate Professor Chi Luu is Deputy Head of the Macular Research Group and Leader of the Electrophysiology, Psychophysics and Preclinical Laboratories. He is also a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne and a member of The Macula Society.

He conducts clinical and preclinical research to better understand the pathophysiology of age-related macular degeneration, and to evaluate safety and efficacy of new interventions. He also investigates novel approaches for vision restoration and neuroprotection of retinal cells. These approaches have the potential to maintain or restore high resolution and colour vision for those with inherited retinal degenerative conditions.

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Professor Keith Martin


Professor Keith Martin is Managing Director of the Centre for Eye Research Australia and Ringland Anderson Professor and Head of Ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Martin is working to develop new treatments for eye disease using stem cells, gene therapy and other techniques. In 2010, Professor Martin won the ARVO Foundation for Eye Research Translational Research Award, an international prize to a researcher from any country under the age of 50 years whose research is judged to have the potential to lead to major breakthroughs in the treatment of eye disease. He was also a winner of the World Glaucoma Association Senior Clinician Scientist Award in 2011 and was awarded the Duke Elder Medal by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in 2017.

He is co-founder of Quethera, a Cambridge-based gene therapy company which has developed a gene therapy for glaucoma that is currently progressing towards human clinical trials. His other current main research interest is in the potential for regeneration and repair of nerve damage in the eye and brain.

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Associate Professor Ian Trounce

BSc, PhD

Head, Mitochondria and neurodegeneration

Ian Trounce is Principal Research Fellow in Glaucoma Research at CERA. Following his PhD studies at the University of Melbourne, he undertook postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Doug Wallace at Emory University before returning to Australia to establish his own laboratory. His research focus is on mitochondria and how defects in oxidative phosphorylation contribute to age-related neurodegenerative diseases, including diseases of the optic nerve. His expertise encompasses biochemical, molecular and cell biology and genetic approaches.

CERA’s Glaucoma Research focuses on molecular pathogenesis and neuro-protection of the optic nerve in glaucoma. A/Prof Trounce supervises a research team investigating the cellular processes related to ageing and mitochondrial dysfunction that affect the vulnerability of retinal ganglion cells to injury. This work is intended to develop new therapeutic approaches for protecting the optic nerve in glaucoma. His research scope extends to other neurodegenerative diseases where mitochondrial dysfunction is strongly implicated, especially Parkinson’s disease.

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Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden


Deputy Director, CERA & Principal Investigator, Ophthalmic Neuroscience

Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden is a Principal Investigator at CERA and a consultant ophthalmologist in the medical retina clinic at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. He has been a Deputy Director at CERA since 2017.

After completing Medicine at Monash University (1999 dux), Peter moved to the Department of Ophthalmology at Flinders University, South Australia to complete his PhD in the field of retinal vascular biology. He pursued ophthalmology training in Victoria (College medalist) before undertaking a post-doctoral research fellowship (NHMRC fellow) at the University of Cambridge, UK. He developed experience in regeneration of the central nervous system in multiple sclerosis, working under Professor Robin Franklin.

Returning to CERA in 2013, Peter’s research focuses on three key areas: novel imaging technologies to detect early markers of eye and central nervous system diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease; understanding the role played by support cells in the optic nerve and the implications that this has for the management of diseases of the optic nerve; and understanding the causes of diabetic retinopathy and identifying new avenues for treatment.

He is a Clinical Director and a founding member of Preserve Sight – a Commonwealth Government-funded national approach to diabetic retinopathy screening in Australia. Peter is also a member of the medical and research committees of the Macular Disease Foundation Australia and is the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists’ representative on the Vision 2020 Vision Initiative, a public health program seeking to reduce avoidable blindness in Victoria.

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Dr Raymond C.B. Wong

B.Biomed Sci (Hons), PhD

Head, Cellular Reprogramming

Dr Raymond CB Wong is a Principal Investigator at CERA, the University of Melbourne and a Guest Professor at Shenzhen Eye Hospital in China. He is a stem cell biologist with 16 years of research experience, specialising in cellular reprogramming, pluripotent stem cells and neural/retinal differentiation. Dr Wong completed his PhD in stem cell biology at Monash University and was awarded a California Institute of Regenerative Medicine Fellowship to pursue overseas postdoctoral training in University of California Irvine (USA), and a Visiting Fellow Award to train in National Institutes of Health (USA). In 2013, Dr Wong joined CERA with the support of a Cranborne Foundation Fellowship and subsequently established the Cellular Reprogramming Unit with the support of a MAWA Fellowship and a NHMRC New Investigator Project Grant. Currently, Dr Wong’s research focuses on understanding the genetic signals that define retinal cells, and using cell reprogramming and stem cell technologies to study and treat retinal diseases.