Eye Disease

In Australia it is the very young and the elderly that are the most vulnerable to contracting diseases of the eye.

In the West Pacific Region, 9,000,000 people are blind, the most common causes of which are cataracts, vitamin A deficiency, eye injuries, trachoma, glaucoma and diabetes. In Australia the major cause of blindness is age-related macular degeneration.

Research at the University of Sydney Department of Clinical Ophthalmology and Eye Health, located at the Sydney Eye Hospital, focuses on the major causes of blindness and eye cancer in children and the elderly.

Professor Frank Billson is the Foundation Professor of the Department of Ophthalmology and Foundation Director of the Save Sight Institute. He has been the driving force in establishing and developing the Institute on the Sydney Eye Hospital campus on Macquarie Street. The Institute is recognised as the major eye research initiative in NSW focusing on developing treatments of eye disease, and cancer in children and the elderly.

Professor Billson initiated the commercialisation of the Institute's fundamental research in glaucoma, which has excited worldwide interest from international glaucoma research bodies. In 2001 the Institute was recognised in the Australian Design Awards and is now part of the Federal Government's Medicare service.

Save Sight Institute: The Billson Research Laboratory (2008)

Professor Frank Billson

The Save Sight Institute honoured its founder and director, Professor Frank Billson, AO by building the Billson Research Laboratory. Since the 1970s, Professor Billson has worked tirelessly in Australia and developing countries such as Cambodia and Bangladesh to save the sight of thousands of newborns and children.

Sydney Medical School Foundation contributed $600,000 to the building of the laboratories, which will be used to investigate diseases of the retina, including age-related and macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, cataract, glaucoma, and keratoconus. In addition, new strategies to treat eye cancers are being investigated and genes that cause congenital eye defects are being identified.

Reducing the severity of visual loss in retinal disorders: Professor Jonathan Stone (1998-2002)

Professor Jonathan Stone
  • Professor Jonathan Stone's research on retinal detachment, conducted in collaboration with the Neuroscience Research Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara, has demonstrated a major beneficial effect of supplemental oxygen in preventing the degeneration of the retina which occurs while the retina is detached. This beneficial effect was traced to the cellular and molecular level and has formed the basis for clinical trials. It is hoped that this will reduce the severity of visual loss which most patients suffer, even when detachments are promptly and effectively reduced by surgery. The team also studied the role of perinatal stress in the causation of the retinitis pigmentosa.