MDFA 2023 research grant recipients with His Excellency the Hon David Hurley, Governor-General of Australia (centre) L–R: Dr Xavier Hadoux, Clinical Associate Professor Gerald Liew, Dr Alexis Ceecee Britten-Jones, Dr Carla Abbott, Dr Grace Lidgerwood, and Professor Chandrakumar Balaratnasingam.
Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) has awarded more than AU$700,000 in research funding to six promising projects that are building the knowledge bank of understanding in macular disease.
This year’s funding round will support projects examining atrophic age-related macular degeneration (AMD), also known as geographic atrophy (GA), for which there are no currently approved treatment options in Australia.
GA is a significant cause of vision loss and blindness in Australia and has many unanswered research questions. One project includes a stem-cell derived modelling of GA. Another will address hyperspectral imaging for detecting and monitoring GA.
Other areas of funded research seek deeper insights into sight-threatening diabetic macular ischaemia, enhanced diagnostic approaches to reduce misdiagnosis of macular disease, and an evaluation of high-density lipoprotein levels that might identify people with high-risk phenotypes of AMD.
The function of mitochondria, the energy-producing centres in our cells, is the focus of research by second-time funding recipient Dr Gerald Liew of the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, University of Sydney, and first-time recipient Dr Grace Lidgerwood of the Centre for Eye Research University of Melbourne, whose research builds upon previous research funded by MDFA.
According to MDFA, the quality of research applications for this year’s funding round was high. Each application was subjected to a rigorous assessment process based on National Health and Medical Research Council criteria.
For the first time, an MDFA Community Review Panel, made up of people living with macular disease and carers, provided input into the decision-making process.
MDFA CEO Dr Kathy Chapman said the inclusion of the Community Review Panel in the grant funding decision process ensured that MDFA kept those living with macular disease “at the centre of the work we do”.
“Our research grants program is funded through the generosity of our community, so it is very appropriate that our community has a say in how their funding is invested.
“The Community Review Panel helped us to understand the areas of research people with lived experience considered the most important. At the end of the process, we found the researchers and the community members were very aligned in their recommendations, which is a testament to the quality of the funded projects.”
The latest funding round brings MDFA’s commitment to macular disease research to AU$5.8 million across 35 projects since 2011. MDFA is Australia’s largest source of research funding for macular disease outside of government.
The grants were presented in June in a ceremony at Admiralty House in Sydney, hosted by His Excellency the Honourable David Hurley, Governor-General of Australia.