About us

Our history

The Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) was established in 1996 and has grown into a leading international eye research institute.

Our beginnings

CERA was established in 1996 by Melbourne Laureate Professor Hugh Taylor, the Harold Mitchell Professor of Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne (pictured above).

The new medical research institute brought together the expertise of the University, the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, as well as the Association for the Blind, the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind and Lions Clubs.

It built a team of considerable talent and resources which included Professors Robyn Guymer, Jill Keefe and Paul Baird and Associate Professors Julian Rait and Grant Snibson.

Dr Cathy McCarthy, who was Head of the Epidemiology Research Unit and the Principal Investigator for the Visual Impairment Project was also a vital part of the team.

As was Professor David Mackey, who worked on the genetics of glaucoma and is now at the Lions Eye Institute in Perth.

CERA’s early mission to change lives through changing sight was built upon the strong foundations of the University’s Department of Ophthalmology.

Groundbreaking research

CERA’s research expanded to encompass stem cell, pharmacology and drug delivery research, as well as groundbreaking projects such as the bionic eye.

It continues to be Collaborating Centre for the Prevention of Blindness by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the only such centre in Australia.

Professor Taylor was CERA’s Managing Director until 2007, when he took up his new position at the University of Melbourne where he continues his lifelong passion.

He was succeeded by Professor Tien Wong who held the position for one year before leaving to continue his brilliant research career in Singapore.

In 2009, internationally renowned glaucoma researcher Professor Jonathan Crowston took the reins at CERA.

Under his leadership, CERA continued to expand from its initial focus in population health and clinical epidemiology to build a strong basic research program.

This wider focus enabled a true bench to bedside approach by combining basic science, clinical and population health research in an integrated program that is at the forefront of translating research into clinical practice.

In recognition of the breadth, depth and quality of its work, CERA was awarded a Centre for Clinical Research Excellence grant for Translational Clinical Research in Major Eye Diseases by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council in 2009.

This contribution to broader clinical practice is evidenced in Oculo, a cloud-based clinical communications network was initially founded by CERA in 2015, and today used by 3200 optometrists and 770 ophthalmologists across Australia and New Zealand.

On World Sight Day in 2016, CERA and Vision 2020 Australia released Australia’s first National Eye Health Survey (NEHS), to determine the prevalence and major causes of vision impairment and blindness in Australia.

CERA was also a partner in advocacy around the need for a national eye screening program for people with diabetes. In 2018, the Commonwealth Government announced it would fund KeepSight, a national eye screening program to be led by Diabetes Australia and Vision 2020.

Continued impact

As we headed towards a new decade, our research increasingly focused on new and emerging technologies and also the role of the eye as a window to investigate other health conditions such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.

In 2019 there was another change of leadership at CERA, when Professor Keith Martin moved to Australia from the University of Cambridge.

Professor Martin, a world-leading glaucoma specialist and gene therapy researcher, is leading CERA into an exciting new era of eye research.

Working towards our goal of a world free from vision loss and blindness, our team is excited by the many possibilities offered by new technology.

In 2019, our Deputy Director and Head of Macular Research Professor Robyn Guymer received funding to lead a major five-year international collaboration to better understand the progression of high-risk age-related macular degeneration.

The project will bring together expertise in bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, genetics, molecular biology, anatomy, stem cells and clinical ophthalmology to better understand the pathways that lead to AMD and open the door to new ways of treating the disease.

Advances in gene and cell therapy are offering new hope for patients with conditions that were previously considered untreatable, and we are harnessing our expertise in this area to establish a Melbourne Centre for Ocular Gene and Cell Therapy.

Utilising artificial intelligence, big data and the incredible power of new imaging technology our team is developing exciting new tools to understand eye health, diagnose disease earlier and prevent blindness.


The publication Martin, J Celebrating 50 years of Ophthalmology at Melbourne, Centre for Eye Research Australia, 2016, was a key resource in informing this brief history.

Learn more

Annual reviews

Inside our annual reviews, you’ll find stories about the scientific discoveries our researchers are making, and how the support of individual donors, philanthropic trusts and foundations allows this important work to advance.

Our strategic plan

Our Strategic Plan 2020-2025 focuses on three key research domains: innovative diagnostics and treatments, regenerating vision and understanding eye health.