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New roles for MDFA expert advisors

Queensland Eye Institute (QEI)’s Associate Professor Anthony Kwan has been appointed chair of the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA)’s Research Committee, stepping into the role vacated by new RANZCO president Professor Nitin Verma.

Associate Professor Alex Hunyor – who has worked with MDFA since 2007 and remains chair of the Medical Committee – has also joined the MDFA Board, in a raft of personnel changes among the organisation’s expert advisors.

Kwan has expertise in medical and surgical retinal disease, as well as experimental eye research, and is involved in education.

The MDFA Research Committee oversees and provides guidance on the organisation’s Research Grants Program, and also comprises Ms Imelda Lynch, an MDFA Board member, and Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden, deputy director of the Centre for Eye Research Australia.

Kwan, who recently launched the first Australian macular disease research review, was first recruited on to the committee about five years ago. When Verma became the president-elect of RANZCO in June, he vacated the chairmanship and recommended Kwan for the position. Verma also served more than 17 years on the MDFA Board.

“The role involves overseeing the distribution of the MDFA research grants in a fair and merit-based manner; recommending the research directions to MDFA board and donors based on latest and promising research,” he said.

“In turn, I hope supporters of MDFA will see the important role it has in providing support to patients, guidance to the community, and advice to the government. We are also planning to expand membership of the committee so that we can attract new blood who can add a new dimension of expertise to the panel.”

In terms of developments that will shape macular research and treatment in Australia over the next five years, Kwan anticipates the availability of long-acting anti-VEGF drugs either via new mode of actions or prolonged delivery device.

He also expects the emergence of gene therapies for both retinal dystrophy and macular degeneration and new therapies for dry age-related macular degeneration.

In other leadership changes, Perth ophthalmologist Dr Xia Ni Wu joined MDFA’s Medical Committee following Associate Professor Dimitri Yellachich’s resignation.

“MDFA is fortunate to have world renowned eye health experts working alongside us on our mission to reduce the incidence and impact of macular disease,” CEO Ms Dee Hopkins said. “This expertise ensures the macular disease community has access to the latest, most comprehensive information and resources about macular disease.”

First inherited eye disease registry

Meanwhile, in September QEI announced a collaboration with the Queensland Children’s Hospital (QCH) to establish the first inherited eye disease registry in the state.

QEI’s Associate Professor Abhishek Sharma.

QEI’s Associate Professor Abhishek Sharma will work alongside Associate Professor Shuan Dai and Dr Jaclyn White from QCH and begin focussing on patients with retinal dystrophies.

The registry will eventually compile data on all inherited eye diseases in Queensland, with hopes it will play a major role in connecting patients to clinical trials to optimise treatment options for those living with inherited eye disease.

Dai, an experienced paediatric ophthalmologist and strabismus surgeon, is the current director of ophthalmology at QCH. He has published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers.

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