Most Innovative Companies listing for CERA

The Centre for Eye Research Australia has been named on the AFR BOSS Most Innovative Companies list for 2020.


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The Centre for Eye Research Australia has been named on the AFR BOSS Most Innovative Companies list for 2020.

CERA was named among the top 10 health companies in the prestigious annual list, which was fittingly but coincidentally released on World Sight Day, 8 October.

The list is based on a rigorous assessment process managed by innovation consultancy Inventium in conjunction with a panel of industry expert judges.

Companies which appear on the list are recognised as demonstrating a sustainable and repeatable approach to innovation, including culture, strategy, resources and process.

CERA’s listing highlighted the pioneering research of CERA Deputy Director Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden to detect the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease – research which has the potential to lead to earlier diagnosis, a crucial first step in developing treatments to delay the onset of the disease.

Backing bold ideas


Associate Professor van Wijngaarden’s research, using hyperspectral imaging technology like that used in NASA satellites to detect amyloid beta plaques in the retina and brain, was initially considered left-of-field.

But his bold idea attracted philanthropic support from the Yulgilbar Alzheimer’s Research Foundation who enabled him to develop his concept.

Last year, that work culminated in a study published in Nature Communications showing the new test accurately predicted brain changes characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Funding from the US-based Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation to start a clinical trial in Melbourne has also been secured.

In December 2019, Enlighten Imaging, a start-up company incubated at CERA to develop this technology, received an Australian Government BioMedTech Horizons grant and support from the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation to help bring this technology from the lab to the clinic.

Drive and commitment


CERA Managing Director Professor Keith Martin says inclusion in the AFR BOSS Most Innovative Companies list is a testament to the commitment and drive of the entire CERA team to finding better treatments and cures for blinding eye diseases.

“At CERA we are striving to achieve for a world-free from vision loss and blindness, and it’s great to see the agility, tenacity and creativity of our team – which spans a diverse mix of basic and clinician scientists, statisticians, engineers and corporate staff – recognised in this listing,’’ he says.

“The unprecedented events of 2020 have shown the vital role of medical research and the great agility of medical research institutes as they have continued to advance their research and address the challenges of not only the virus itself, but also many of the secondary health issues caused by the pandemic.’’

CERA’s Head of Commercialisation and Legal Tena Cheng says the Most Innovative Companies listing is an opportunity for CERA to reflect on its approach and keep building a culture which supports its team to tackle left-of-field ideas.

“Commercialisation and translation of research is a key part of our strategy,” she says.

“Our focus is on helping our research move quickly from bench to bedside and actively supporting commercialisation of promising research.

“We want our team to experience CERA as a place where things get done and creative ideas can have a home.

“Our ability to enable our researchers to move their ideas to market quickly is not only good for people with vision loss and blindness – but also demonstrates the critical contribution that science can make to our economic recovery after COVID-19.’’

Key approaches to promoting innovation at CERA include a specialist Innovation and Enterprise committee to encourage and progress translational projects and a new Innovation Fund, supported by philanthropy, to help researchers kick-start innovative ideas which might fall outside the scope of traditional funding schemes.

Read the full list: 10 Most Innovative Health Companies

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