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Glaucoma Australia
October 2019

To commemorate World Sight Day (10 October) Glaucoma Australia is pleased to announce the inaugural recipients of its new Glaucoma Research Grants Program.

Professor Jamie Craig giving eye test on patient

Glaucoma Australia is delighted to announce research grants have been awarded to Dr George Kong, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and Professor Jamie Craig, Flinders University.

"The two proposals were selected from a very strong pool of applications and the decision was difficult to make,” said Professor Allison McKendrick, Glaucoma Australia’s Independent Research Panel Chair and Head of Department, Optometry & Vision Sciences, at the University of Melbourne.“ The highly competitive pool of applicants verifies the importance of this wonderful initiative,” she added.

“Both research proposals strongly support Glaucoma Australia’s commitment to funding high quality glaucoma research which seeks to improve the lives of people with glaucoma through better detection, treatment and monitoring,” said James Christensen Glaucoma Australia Research Committee Chair. “I am highly appreciative of the collaborative team efforts, professionalism and service provided by the research committee, expert panel and staff to ensure the program was managed to such a high standard,” he added. 

Since 2006, Glaucoma Australia has facilitated the allocation of $934,527 to a broad range of research projects related to eye health via external partnership grants. The grants announced today are the first to be awarded through the Glaucoma Australia Research Grants Program launched this year. This inaugural round commits $200,000 over the next 3 years using funds which have been specifically earmarked for research related to glaucoma.

The aim of Dr Kong’s research in the next five years is to continue to harness the latest developments in portable and connected technologies to improve eye care in Australia and around the world.  This translational research project, supported by Glaucoma Australia, will be the world’s first clinical trial to examine the validity of home monitoring using the world’s first software app for tablet devices for glaucoma patients. 

“This innovation that uses technology commonly found in Australian households could lead to earlier detection of glaucoma progression compared to standard clinic visits,” says Dr Kong. “As a result, this will achieve the ultimate aim of allowing those who are most in need of treatment to receive it in a timely manner, thereby increasing the likelihood of preserving sight.”

The next stage of this collaborative optometry and ophthalmology research team project will examine how home monitoring will be able to integrate with existing clinical practices, as well as examine its potential in improving treatment compliance, patient awareness of their eye disease and population screening.

Professor Craig’s proposed work forms the basis for an ongoing vision over the next 5 years to ensure that population level screening for glaucoma is achieved in a cost-effective manner. He aims to provide evidence which drives early intervention to the highest risk individuals before vision loss occurs. This is expected to grow into a National study achieving Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) level support provided pilot data is favourable and a suitable partner is acquired.

“The ultimate goal of this proposal is to improve prediction of glaucoma for every Australian who will develop the disease,” says Professor Craig. “We have made very recent major advances in the field of risk profiling for glaucoma, showing that common genetic markers in the form of a Glaucoma Polygenic Risk Score (GPRS) can predict an individual’s likelihood of developing glaucoma. Glaucoma is highly heritable, so knowledge of a family history of glaucoma has enabled us to reach relatives of individuals with glaucoma. However, only half of glaucoma cases have a known family history. We intend to achieve a paradigm shift in the way glaucoma is prevented.”

Glaucoma Australia is committed to supporting research which focuses on the following four domains which are framed around on our bold mission ‘to eliminate glaucoma blindness’.

  1. Increasing the rate and reliability of early detection of glaucoma
  2. Improving the treatment experience
  3. Improving the quality and experience of monitoring the condition for progression and maintaining better population wide statistics
  4. Providing management tools to improve the quality of life for people with glaucoma.

The Glaucoma Australia Research Grants are awarded following rigorous evaluation, based largely on the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) process, along with peer review, to ensure that the successful applicants meet the highest standards. Submissions are reviewed by the Glaucoma Australia Independent Research Panel consisting of internationally recognised experts in glaucoma research including the fields of Ophthalmology, Optometry and Pharmacy.  

The research funds would not be possible without the generous donations of our patrons supporting the William A Quinlivan Glaucoma Australia Research and Scholarship Fund. The Fund is a significant legacy of William’s son and principal patron, Marcus James Quinlivan OAM; who was a long-time friend and supporter of Glaucoma Australia.

The next round of grants for research commencing in 2021 is expected to open on 1 June 2020, and close on 1 September 2020.

Contributions to this research are welcome by making a tax deductible donation to Glaucoma Australia today. 

About Professor Jamie Craig

Professor Jamie Craig is an Ophthalmologist, specialising in glaucoma and medical retinal disease. His research looks at the genetic causes of eye disease and what makes some people more susceptible to eye disease than others.

Professor Craig set up a national registry for advanced glaucoma patients and hopes to use this information to identify common genes associated with the disease. He is currently Professor of Ophthalmology at Flinders University and a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Flinders Medical Centre.

About Dr George Kong

Dr George Kong is a Glaucoma Subspecialist and Comprehensive Ophthalmologist with particular interest in glaucoma caused by angle closure and inflammatory eye diseases. Dr Kong is renowned for his pioneering work in optic nerve function and his development of early detection methods for glaucoma.

He was instrumental in the development of the GONE (Glaucoma Optic Neuropathy Evaluation) website which has helped thousands of optometrists and junior ophthalmologists around the world improve their optic nerve examination techniques. Dr Kong was also a co-inventor of software for visual field testing software on iPad – Melbourne Rapid Fields.

He is currently in private practice and has public commitments at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital as well as Monash Hospital, Eastern Health and other facilities. George is an Honorary Clinical Lecturer at the University of Melbourne, where he continues to pursue research in association with CERA (the Centre for Eye Research Australia.)