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News, Research

MDFA invites applications for macular disease research grants

30/01/2019By Callum Glennen
Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) is inviting researchers and institutions to apply for its next round of research grant funding. For the first time grant criteria has been expanded to cover macular disease research, rather than solely focussing on age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

After being launched in 2011, MDFA Research Grants have committed $3.6 million to 18 different projects, several of which are ongoing.

Professor Erica Fletcher, from the University of Melbourne, was the recipient of a $180,000 grant over two years, awarded in 2017.

“We are hoping to develop a blood test where we can predict, based on looking at immune cells, who is going to be at the highest risk of progression to late stage age-related macular degeneration,” Fletcher said.

“The second stage of the research is to look at why immune cells stop working in patients with AMD, why they stop working as well as they should, why they fail to remove cellular waste in our bodies and whether we can tweak the process to make those cells work better.”

Erica Fletcher
Erica Fletcher
“We are hoping to develop a blood test where we can predict, based on looking at immune cells, who is going to be at the highest risk of progression to late stage age-related macular degeneration.”
Erica Fletcher, University of Melbourne

In Western Australia, Dr Fred Chen from the Lions Eye Institute is conducting MDFA-funded research to investigate the varied presentation and natural history of Stargardt disease in order to identify suitable patients for future clinical trials. The project will also support the infrastructure to discover mechanisms of new mutations and the development of personalised treatment in the Stargardt gene.

Other current research projects include a program to better understand the mechanisms causing atrophic AMD. Professor Alice Pébay, formerly of the Centre for Eye Research Australia and now with University of Melbourne, was awarded $300,000 over two years to develop a laboratory model using human retinal cells produced from induced pluripotent stem cells from 120 people either with or without atrophic AMD.

The cells from AMD patients will include a wide range of the genetic variations that have been linked to an increased risk of disease. The aim of the research is to help better understand the processes causing disease and to identify new targets for treatments.

MDFA will accept applications for the 2019 Research Grants, for work commencing in January 2020, from March 1 to June 2 2019. To be eligible, research projects must be related to macular disease.

The primary investigators on projects must also be Australian citizens or permanent residents, and be based at an Australian institution registered as an administering institution with the National Health and Medical Research Council or Australian Research Council.

AFT Pharmaceuticals

Successful recipients will be announced on World Sight Day, October 10 2019.


More reading:

MDFA awards $1.3 million in research grants; presented by Governor-General
Australian study links immune cells to vision loss


Image Caption: (L-R: Professor Alice Pébay, Professor Erica Fletcher, Sir Peter Cosgrove Governor-General, Lynne Cosgrove, Dr Fred Chen)

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