Victoria Fellowships expand CERA’s research vision

Two CERA researchers will further their ground-breaking work on eye disease detection technology and genetic research after winning prestigious veski Victoria Fellowships.





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CERA Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Xavier Hadoux and honorary clinician-researcher Dr Ceecee Britten-Jones will use their fellowships to collaborate with world-leading experts in Europe and the UK.

The awards recognise science research innovation and provide up to $18,000 for short-term overseas study to develop a commercial idea, undergo specialist training or develop careers in ways not possible in Australia.

Due to COVID-19, the 12 recipients have until 30 June 2023 to complete their travel.

Hyper-accurate medical imaging

Dr Hadoux, who completed his PhD in data science at France’s Montpellier University in 2014, applies engineering, physics and data science to medical device development and detecting biomarkers for eye and brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

His team is recognised as the world leader in the emerging field of retinal hyperspectral imaging.

Dr Hadoux developed the world-first imaging system that uses a specialised camera with a rainbow-coloured flash to detect disease sooner and see more than other methods.

A company he co-founded, Enlighten Imaging Pty Ltd, is developing affordable and robust imaging cameras that could be available in Australian clinics and beyond as soon as 2022.

The fellowship will enable Dr Hadoux to present his findings in person, foster research ideas, observe those using his cameras, develop new collaborations, and establish a PhD scholarship.

He hopes to visit the Gipsa-Lab in Grenoble, France, the Laboratory of Ophthalmology at Belgium’s KU Leuven University, and the Department of Clinical Sciences at Sweden’s Umea University in mid-2022.

Dr Hadoux plans to build a knowledge, data, and student exchange with Gipsa-Lab, and strengthen his Alzheimer’s Disease collaboration with KU Leuven and Umea University researchers.

He is also keen to collaborate with specialists in the data processing and clinical aspects of his work.

“It’s definitely going to expand our general knowledge in processing our data algorithm, and the clinical side,” he says. “It’s quite a complex kind of data.

“The Gipsa-lab, led by Prof Jocelyn Chanussot, has world-leading expertise in hyperspectral image processing, providing advice to NASA and ONERA (French Aerospace).”

The fellowships could not have come at a better time for these recipients, who have been unable to travel due to COVID-19 and had to suspend clinical aspects of their work.

Dr Hadoux was also honored with an Australian-French Association Award for his study mission. The award, which is also supported by the Embassy of France, Australia, aims to facilitate science and technology innovations which are mutually beneficial to the two countries.

Advancing genetic therapies

Dr Britten-Jones has an honorary position with CERA and works in the Departments of Optometry and Vision Sciences, and Surgery (Ophthalmology).

Her postdoctoral fellowship aims to improve the understanding of genetic retinal conditions and better identify people eligible for gene therapy clinical trials.

A clinical optometrist, Dr Britten-Jones manages Victoria’s growing database of people with inherited retinal diseases, which is a collaboration between CERA and the University of Melbourne.

“It’s a natural history study,” she explains. “We invite people in, and we collect their clinical information over time to learn how their specific disease progresses.

“By learning about the different types of inherited retinal diseases and the genes that cause them, that information helps us develop new treatments and outcomes for future clinical trials.”

Dr Britten-Jones hopes to learn more about genetic treatments and trials from leading UK eye clinics and research facilities in late 2022.

These include Oxford University’s Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, Oxford Eye Hospital, Oxford University Hospitals’ genetic testing laboratories, the Vision and Eye Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, and Cambridge University’s Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

“It’s really going to open my eyes – no pun intended – to the work that is being undertaken at these world-leading institutions, and I’m really excited about working with our collaborators in person,” Dr Britten-Jones says.

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