The Macular Disease Foundation Australia has announced the recipients of two major research grants totaling AU$600,000. The grants were announced at an event held in the Utzon Room at the Sydney Opera House. Jørn Utzon, who designed the Opera House, lived with macular degeneration in his later life.
The recipients of the grants were Associate Professor Erica Fletcher from the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at The University of Melbourne and Associate Professor Damien Harkin from the School of Biomedical Sciences, at the Queensland University of Technology and the Queensland Eye Institute.
Associate Professor Fletcher’s research will examine how the removal of debris in the eyes changes with age. This will help identify early markers for people with a high risk of disease progression and the information gained from this project will be crucial for developing new treatments for macular degeneration.
Associate Professor Harkin’s novel research project will look at a protein extracted from silk as a form of scaffold on which to grow new retinal tissue, with the view to replacing the damaged tissue that eventually leads to permanent loss of sight in macular degeneration patients. This project may help maintain or restore vision for people living with late stage disease.
At the presentation, Julie Heraghty, chief executive officer of the Macular Disease Foundation highlighted the significance of the Foundation’s commitment to ongoing research.
“Research is a journey of discovery with the ultimate destination being a place where we can save sight, so that all Australians can see a future. Through the generosity of the Australian community, the Foundation is continuing to invest heavily in macular degeneration research to realise this important goal,” Ms. Heraghty said.