As the national peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, Vision 2020 Australia is thrilled with the announcement that the Australian Government has awarded $35 million to progress bioengineered cornea research.
Funded under the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), it represents a record investment in the prevention of blindness in Australia, and abroad.
Vision 2020 Australia CEO, Carly Iles, said it is recognition of the groundbreaking work members are undertaking to reduce preventable blindness and improve accessibility to eye care.
"Corneal disease is the third most common form of blindness and over 10 million are on a waiting list for a corneal transplant," said Iles.
"Thousands of Australians, many of them First Nations peoples, require a corneal tissue transplant each year to restore their vision, but the amount of donor corneas cannot meet this need."
"Bioengineered materials will vastly improve access to treatment and prevent people from losing vision."
Ms Iles said Vision 2020 Australia has prioritised advocacy to increase MRFF funding allocations for the eye health sector over recent years and she is pleased the government is recognising this.
Led by the University of Sydney and the Save Sight Institute, the BIENCO consortium also includes additional Vision 2020 Australia members, the University of Melbourne and the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA).
Creating bioengineered materials will significantly reduce the need for donated tissue and increase the speed and quality of care patients receive.
The MRFF grant will support BIENCO in commercialising its operations, making artificial corneas accessible to all.
Ms Iles urged the Australian Government to continue with funding eye health initiatives, as it is one area where rapid gains can be made.
"Ninety per cent of vision issues are preventable or treatable. With treatment now available for Australians with corneal disease it’s vital these services can be accessed by all Australians when they need it."
You can learn more about Vision 2020 Australia, here.