New glaucoma imaging tech wins 2021 ‘Quinlivan’ Research Grant

A UNSW researcher from the university’s Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering has been awarded Glaucoma Australia (GA)’s ‘Quinlivan’ Research Grant to develop a novel imaging technology for the early detection and monitoring of glaucoma.

To commemorate World Sight Day on 14 October, GA and its patron Governor-General Mr David Hurley announced Professor Ewa Goldys as this year’s recipient.

According to GA – which contributes funding $200,000 a year towards research – Goldys’ imaging innovation obtains information about the health status of the retina and the optic nerve; providing the opportunity for early disease detection and the ability to commence treatment before irreversible blindness sets in.

“Our approach termed fluorescent hyperspectral imaging (fHSI) has the genuine potential to produce a paradigm shift in ophthalmic practice in a similar manner to how optical coherence tomography (OCT) became a commonplace clinical imaging tool in glaucoma management,” Goldys said.

“We believe this technology will be particularly useful in the early detection of glaucoma and its subsequent monitoring.”

The technology obtains real time monitoring of dynamic disease status by non-invasively obtaining information about retinal energy metabolism.

This highly focussed research strategy provides a powerful scientific foundation for clinical translation by first mapping the fHSI data to pathological changes in experimental glaucoma. The next step is to obtain fHSI data in the lab-based microscopy system and then use an adapted clinical fundus to image the same samples and link the results. This approach paves the way for future widespread clinical application of fHSI.

A world-leading biomedical engineer, Goldys and medical and data scientists with complementary skill sets, will work with internationally recognised glaucoma clinician-scientists Professor Andrew White and Professor Robert Casson, to lead the interdisciplinary project from the lab to clinic.

With an Australian SME providing device engineering and state-of-the-art infrastructure support from the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, Goldys believes her team is positioned to lead the world in this technology.

GA’s Independent Research Panel chair and Professor within the University of Melbourne’s Optometry and Vision Sciences department Allison McKendrick said “there were some very strong proposals and highly competitive pool of applicants which is testament to this wonderful initiative of Glaucoma Australia”.

Since 2006, GA has committed $1,424,783 to support Australian glaucoma researchers across various projects. Goldys’ grant is the fourth to be awarded through the ‘Quinlivan’ Research Grants Program which was re-launched in 2019.

GA CEO Ms Annie Gibbins said it was exciting to receive the annual grant applications from researchers exploring new ways to detect, monitor and treat glaucoma.

“We are proud to be able to fund these wonderful projects thanks to the generosity of our donors. One hundred percent of donations to the William A. Quinlivan Research Fund go directly towards glaucoma research which will translate into some major breakthroughs for future generations,” she said.

GA’s ‘Quinlivan’ 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 GA Independent Research Panel consisting of internationally recognised experts in glaucoma research including the fields of ophthalmology, optometry and pharmacy.

The next round of grants for research commencing in 2023 is expected to open on 1 May 2022, and close on 1 June 2022.

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