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CERA highlights from 2017

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Steve Hurd and guide dog Sandy

     Steve Hurd and guide dog, Sandy 

Greetings from the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA)! My name is Steve and I am thrilled to join the team at CERA as Community Engagement Officer.

2018 is shaping up to be an exciting one as we collaborate with universities, industry and other partners to bring you the latest and greatest in eye health research.

This brief report will provide you with a snapshot of our research highlights over the past year, and give you a sneak peek at our plans for 2018. I hope you enjoy reading about the dedicated team of researchers and clinicians who make CERA the top eye research institute in Australia and one of the top four worldwide.

Of course, none of this great work would be possible without the generous support of our donors and friends. Thanks to you, CERA can continue working towards new treatments and cures for eye diseases and restoring sight to people that have lost it.

Warm wishes, Steve Hurd

P.S Make sure you keep an ear out for my new podcast series – coming soon!


Dr Isabel Lopez Sanchez in the lab

Vision is the greatest gift

CERA’s 2017 Christmas appeal featured Dr Isabel Lopez Sanchez who is working to find a way to protect nerve cells in the eye from dying.

“Our research so far has uncovered many similarities between rare optic nerve diseases such as Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) and glaucoma,” Dr Lopez Sanchez says.

“Thank you to everyone who supported my research by making a donation. Big or small, they all made a difference” said Dr Lopez Sanchez.

Retinal scan image showing geographic atrophy

New drug shows promise for reducing the rate of progression of AMD

An international study, including researchers from CERA, has shown promising early results in slowing the progression of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – one of the most common causes of vision loss in people over the age of 50.

Developed by pharmaceutical company Apellis, the Phase 2 drug trial showed a reduction in the growth of lesions associated with dry AMD. Based on these positive results, Apellis has announced a Phase 3 trial is due to commence in the second half of 2018.

CERA welcomes US$18 million investment in bionic vision research
Bionic Vision Technologies, the commercial enterprise created to bring Australia’s first bionic eye to market, secured an US$18 million investment in 2017.

“This funding means our bionic eye technology can be progressed from the lab to the home,” said surgeon and CERA researcher Associate Professor Penelope Allen.

“It is great to be able to offer some hope to this group of profoundly visually impaired patients with inherited retinal degeneration, who make up the largest cause of blindness in working age people,” she said.

iPad displaying app created by Prof Robyn Guymer

Technology is changing the face of eye disease

Two tools developed by CERA researchers are changing the way we diagnose and monitor eye disease.

A/Prof Ehud Zamir created a simple tool to assess the depth of the eye’s anterior chamber, which is an important indicator in the diagnosis of open angle glaucoma.

Professor Robyn Guymer, Dr George Kong, and Professor Algis Vingrys (University of Melbourne) have devised a new approach to monitoring progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by using an app designed for an iPad.


Dr Tom Edwards in the lab

Tax-time gifts are helping find a cure for retinal disease

Last year’s tax appeal achieved an outstanding result for CERA researcher, Dr Thomas Edwards, who is using gene therapy to find a cure for inherited retinal disorders, the leading cause of blindness in working age adults.

“My hope is that we will soon be entering an era where, for the first time, a treatment exists for patients with incurable inherited retinal degeneration that halts or even reverses vision loss,” said Tom.

With the public’s generous support, CERA will be able to establish the first ever Australian clinical gene therapy trial for an inherited retinal eye disorder.


2017 3MT winner Jessica Tang receiving her prize

CERA PhD student is keeping a better eye on glaucoma

CERA PhD student Jessica Tang won the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition hosted by the University of Melbourne. The competition asks graduate students to explain their research in plain English in under three minutes. Jessica’s research is based on creating a more reliable and portable test for glaucoma patients to discover if their field of vision is deteriorating.

Jessica continues a proud tradition of CERA students who have excelled at the 3MT competition in recent years.

To view Jessica’s presentation, visit https://melbourne-cshe.unimelb.edu.au/events/key-topics/3mt/university-of-melbourne-2017-3mt-grand-final


Victor’s story

Ask any researcher at CERA, and they’ll tell you that patients are at the centre of all the work we do. Clinical trial patient Victor Fortmann experienced this dedication first-hand. “The treatment at CERA is world-class, I could not have wished for anything better, from a situation of no vision in my right eye, I can now see well again. Without the research, the doctors would not be able to care for their patients,” he said.


CERA continues to push the boundaries in eye treatments and transformational research.

You can support CERA by donating online or speaking to one of our friendly Philanthropy team on 1300 737 757.