SSI researcher awarded commercialisation grant at medical device showcase

The Honourable Jillian Skinner, NSW Minister for Health, has presented Save Sight Institute’s Clinical Professor Stephanie Watson with a Technology Commercialisation Grant by ATP Innovations. The grant is for her innovative medical device ‘Kleer-i’, a next generation sealant which is bonded to the surface of the eye with a low-powered laser.

The Honourable Jillian Skinner, NSW Minister for Health, has presented Save Sight Institute’s Clinical Professor Stephanie Watson with a Technology Commercialisation Grant by ATP Innovations. The grant is for her innovative medical device ‘Kleer-i’, a next generation sealant which is bonded to the surface of the eye with a low-powered laser.

According to Professor Watson “Kleer-i is smart eye repair as it will save sight and reduce the health costs. It can improve patient outcomes from cataract surgery – the most common operation performed in the world. Patients having corneal transplants and following trauma will also benefit.”

Kleer-i combines rapid wound closure with drug delivery and scarless healing. It is a thin film bioadhesive, that is bonded to the eye with a low powered laser and can be pre-loaded with therapeutics such as antibiotics to prevent infection. Associate Professor John Foster, a biomedical scientist has worked with Professor Watson to develop Kleer-i.

The announcement occurred during the Medical Device Showcase at world-leading incubator, ATP Innovations. This event highlighted the incredible medical device research underway in NSW and demonstrated progress towards commercialisation that participants in the 2015 cohort of the NSW Medical Device Commercialisation Training Program (MDCTP) have made.

Professor Watson was awarded the top grant, one of just two graduates to receive a grant following 12 weeks of intensive training delivered by ATP Innovations.

“The program was exceptional” said Professor Watson “and I strongly encourage medical innovators who are keen to commercialise to consider undertaking the training. I am honoured and excited to be awarded the generous grant, and am looking forward to moving the Kleer-i device to its next phase, and ultimately to improving the visual outcomes of many more people in the future.”

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SSI research ‘well above world standard’

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has released its Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) results, awarding the Save Sight Institute’s Discipline of Clinical Ophthalmology at The University of Sydney a rating of five (5), the highest possible score in its five tier ratings system.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has released its Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) results, awarding the Save Sight Institute’s Discipline of Clinical Ophthalmology at The University of Sydney a rating of five (5), the highest possible score in its five tier ratings system. 

This outcome confirms that research at Save Sight Institute continues to be well above world standard.

According to Professor Peter McCluskey, Director of Save Sight Institute, “We are exceptionally proud to again be awarded the highest possible rating in the Australian Research Council’s results. Our results are consistently excellent, being awarded the highest possible score in all previous ERA reports.”

The ERA rating system is a quality assurance mechanism for Australia’s universities, and is the primary mechanism to report on comparative research performance to investors and donors. Its evaluation framework gives government, industry, business and the community assurance of the standards of research underway in our higher education institutions, with particular consideration of quality, activity, application and recognition. 

The ERA results provide a national stocktake of disciplines, identifying strengths and areas where there is opportunity for further development, and allows for comparisons of Australia’s research nationally and internationally. 

“Our clinical and laboratory team set the benchmark for ophthalmology research in Australia and internationally” said Head of Discipline, Professor John Grigg “and we are making excellent progress. I would like to sincerely thank our supporters and donors for enabling us continue doing this important work which aims to improve the quality of life for people affected by eye disease, now and in the future.”

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SSI honours the many achievements of retiring Professor John McAvoy

This month we celebrate the career and many contributions of Professor John McAvoy who retires at the end of the year as Director of Laboratory Research at SSI.

This month we celebrate the career and many contributions of Professor John McAvoy who retires at the end of the year as Director of Laboratory Research at SSI.

Prof McAvoy established the Lens Research Group at The University of Sydney over 36 years ago, and his research has focused particularly on identifying new treatments to delay or prevent cataracts.

Prof McAvoy has worked tirelessly to improve outcomes for people afflicted by eye disease by advancing our understanding of cellular and molecular processes.

He once said “Understanding, at cellular and molecular levels, the exquisite regulation of developmental processes that result in the generation of an individual, to me, represents one of the most compelling intellectual challenges for mankind.”

Prof McAvoy is internationally recognised for identifying growth factors and their roles in directing the growth and differentiation of lens cells in both health and disease.

He has trained and mentored many undergraduate and postgraduate students, and his enduring teachings and mentoring continues to be passed on today.

Prof McAvoy’s passion for cell and developmental biology has led to pioneering lens research on the factors involved in lens development and pathology: a body of work that now includes well over 100 papers.

Prof McAvoy said “Besides enjoying developmental biology for its intrinsic beauty, there is also excitement and satisfaction from knowing understanding the mechanisms of normal development is central to understanding and alleviating conditions that result in degeneration and disease.”

Professor McAvoy is well known on the international scene and has frequently been invited to present at major national and international research meetings and plenary lectures. He organised the International Congress of Eye Research in Sydney in 2004 and was awarded the ‘Kinoshita Lectureship’ in 2012 by the National Foundation for Eye Research in the USA for meritorious research that contributes to the understanding of the etiology and prevention of cataract development.

John McAvoy has been an invaluable part of SSI over the past decades and we thank him sincerely for his work and friendship. 

Making waves! Sara swims to save sight

With the support of Save Sight Institute (SSI), the Lions Club of Wyoming and the NSW Central Coast community, Sara Evans completed her marathon swim to save sight on Sunday 29th November 2015 at Mingara One aquatic centre.

With the support of Save Sight Institute (SSI), the Lions Club of Wyoming and the NSW Central Coast community, Sara Evans completed her marathon swim to save sight on Sunday 29th November 2015 at Mingara One aquatic centre.

Motivated by her friend’s son who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), Sara swam continuously for 12 hours to raise vital funds for paediatric eye disease at SSI in Sydney.

RP involves the degeneration of photoreceptors in the retina, with typical outcomes including night blindness and tunnel vision. Currently, RP affects thousands of Australian children and their families, and is one of many blinding eye disorders that SSI researchers are working hard to find a cure for.

“I’d be gutted if I was told that my children were going to lose their sight…I want to make a difference. When I’m swimming, that’s what I think about,” Sara said.

The swim took place alongside Sara’s Family Fun Day at Mingara Recreation Club, involving face-painting, sausage sizzles, jumping castles, markets and live entertainment, with proceeds going toward research at SSI. Among those present during the day were Professor Peter McCluskey, Director of SSI, and Professor John Grigg, paediatric ophthalmologist and Head of the Discipline of Clinical Ophthalmology at Sydney Medical School (The University of Sydney).

“We are incredibly proud of the brave efforts that Sara has made” said Professor McCluskey. “The impact that inherited and childhood eye disease has can be massive – on individual children, but also on families and communities. We are well on our way towards finding a cure for blinding diseases like RP, and with the help of people like Sara and the community, we can do much more and do it faster.”

An emotional moment was shared by all who were present during the final laps of Sara’s swim, when her 14-year-old son Josh, and Fred, a teenage sufferer of RP, swam alongside her, supported by a crowd that had lined the pool to cheer them on.

A huge thank you to Sara Evans, who has raised well over $50,000 for research into paediatric eye disease at the Save Sight Institute.

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