Professor Stephanie Watson
NHMRC Career Development Fellow and Clinical Professor
Clinical Ophthalmology & Eye Health, Central Clinical School
Save Sight Institute
Save Sight Institute
Stephanie is a clinician researcher and innovator. She is head of the Ocular Repair Group at the Save Sight Institute and an NHMRC Career Development Fellow.
As head of the Ocular Repair Group she leads a research program focused on innovative solutions to restore sight and promote ocular health. She led her team to first prize in the Best Health Innovation Product Idea. IDE group in 2016. In 2015, she was awarded first prize for the Medical Device Commercialisation Training Program, ATP Innovations and the NSW Office for Health and Medical Research. Organisations that have funded her research include the NHMRC, Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia, Australian Stem Cell Centre, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, Keratoconus Australia, Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation, and Fight for Sight UK. She has published 115 articles in high-ranked peer reviewed journals and book chapters, and holds international patents. Stephanie has given over 125 presentations at national and international meetings.
Stephanie is known for her ground-breaking research in corneal therapies. She has been a Pride of Australia award nominee, an UNSW Early stage innovation award finalist and received a commendation from the Vice Chancellor of the University of New South Wales. She received the Gustav Nossal Medical and Dental Post-graduate Research NHMRC scholarship; this is awarded to the highest ranked applicant. She has also received awards from Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society, and was awarded the ‘Les is more’ grand final award, episode winner and people’s choice award on The New Inventors, ABC Television, for developing a stem cell therapy.
For the first Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting in Australia, ARVO-Asia 2017 Stephanie is the Scientific Programme Co-Chair and on the steering committee for the ARVO-Asia Translational Vision Summit 2017. ARVO is the largest and most respected eye research organization in the world. She was selected for ARVOs first leadership development programme for women.
Her work has also been featured in the international and national TV news, radio and print media. Highlights include features on the ABC's Insight program, CatalystTV program, the New York Times and in the bright ideas section of the Qantas ‘inflight’ magazine. As well as in the BBC news, Al Jarezza, The Australian and in the national news on Channel 7, 10, and SBS.
As an ophthalmic surgeon Stephanie specializes in cataract, corneal and laser surgery in adults and children. She has appointments as at the Sydney Eye Hospital, Sydney Children's and Prince of Wales Hospital, and St Vincent’s Private Hospital.
Stephanie graduated with first class honors from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Medical Science, followed by a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. During her PhD studies she developed a new therapy for dry eye and corneal ulcer; resulting in an international patent. She completed sub-speciality training at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London in cornea and cataract. She is a fellow of RANZCO.
Stephanie is a conjoint senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales; Chair of the Public Health Committee, RANZCO; Director of the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia; Editor for the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group UK; NSW representative of the Corneal Society. She is a member of the ARVO Strategic Global Partnerships working committee; RANZCO congress programme committee; RANZCO therapeutics committee member, and curriculum review committee for Evidence Based Medicine, RANZCO.
Clin Prof Watson leads a research program focused on innovative solutions for ocular repair and regeneration.
Teaching and supervision
Ocular Repair Group
Group leader: Clinical Professor Stephanie Watson
Prof Watson is supported by an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (APP1050524)
1. OCULAR INFECTION
Serious Ocular Infections Project
Team:Professor Stephanie Watson, Dr Dana Robaei, Associate Professor Alex Hunyor, Mr Eamon Brown
Ocular infection can irreversibly damage the eyes structures resulting in vision loss and even blindness. Prompt use of appropriate antimicrobials can preserve vision. Antimicrobial resistance is emerging as a significant problem. Rational antimicrobial use for ocular infection has the potential to save sight. We aim to determine the pattern of pathogenic microbes and prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in the most common, serious and sight-threatening infections encountered in the field of ophthalmology, namely endophthalmitis (infection of the globe) and microbial keratitis (infection of the cornea).
This project is supported by the Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation
Antiviral therapy for herpes simplex keratitis
Team:Professor Stephanie Watson, Dr Dana Robaei, Dr Maria Cabrera Aguas, Dr Dr Yi Chiao-Li
Herpes Simplex keratitis is the leading cause of infectious blindness in developed nations and is commonly seen at the Sydney Eye Hospital. To save sight we will develop Australian guidelines for anti-viral therapy for this infection.
This project is supported by the Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation
Sutureless antimicrobial surgery
Team:Associate Professor John Foster Professor Stephanie Watson, Dr Jack Tan
Sutures are used to seal ocular wounds and for corneal surgery, such as transplantation. Sutures however have a number of significant disadvantages, including acting as a nidus for infection. The team has developed an innovative laser-activated chitosan bioadhesive that can be rapidly applied to the eye and has a high burst pressure. It is also capable of delivering anti-infective and anti-inflammatory agents to wounds.
An NHMRC project grant (IDID 1067749) has been awarded for this project.
2. FIGHT CORNEAL BLINDNESS PROJECT
Save Sight Registries Keratoconus Module
Team:Professor Stephanie Watson, Associate Professor Mark Daniell, Dr Daniel Barthelmes, Dr Martina Bosch, Dr John Males, Dr Yves Kerdraon
This project will utilise technology of the Fight Retinal Blindness Project led by Prof Mark Gilles, Save Sight Institute, to develop a national registry to collect high quality data outcomes from patients in clinical settings on the corneal cross-linking. Nationally we are partnering with Prof Mark Daniell, CERA, Victoria and our international partners Dr Martina Bosch and Dr Daniel Barthelmes are based in Switzerland. National data collected with ourworld-leading technology will be used to formulate evidence based management guidelines, evaluate new interventions and report patient related outcomes.
Keratoconus Australia and the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia have provided seed funding for this project.
National Surveillance Studies
Team:Professor Stephanie Watson, Associate Professor Nick Di GIrolamo, Professor Peter McCluskey, Professor Denis Wakefield, Associate Professor Damien Harkin
In partnership with the Australian and New Zealand Ophthalmic Surviellance Unit we are investigating the national incidence of scarring disease of the eye surface (Ocular Cicatricial Pemphigoid, Steven Johnson Syndrome) and end-stage limbal stem cell failure.
3. DRY EYE AND BLEPHARITIS
Team:Professor Stephanie Watson, Dr Ken Ooi
Dry eye and blepharitis (eyelid inflammation) are the commonest eye disorders, affecting up to 40% of people. Many continue to suffer despite available therapies. We have developed a novel therapy and in a pilot clinical trial showed success in treating blepharitis with dry eye.
We are seeking funding for Phase II trials.
Dry eye and aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer
Team:Professor Stephanie Watson, Dr Holly Inglis, Prof Michael Friedlander, A/Prof Frances Boyle, Dr Yi Chiao-Li
We have conducted the first prospective survey study of breast cancer patients on aromatase inhibitors and found increased dry eye. We now have funding from the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia to investigate this group further.
Stem cell repair
Team: A/Professor Nick Di Girolamo, Professor Stephanie Watson
Professor Watson and Associate Professor Di Girolamo have developed novel and world first stem cell transplantation techniques that have successfully restored sight to patients. Stem cells are needed to restore clear vision and comfort to the ocular surface. Current research is focussing on the factors to promote stem cell repair of the ocular surface.
This work has been supported by an UNSW Goldstar award.
Women on Boards
Association for Research and Vision in Ophthalmology
American Academy of Ophthalmology
Sydney University Alumni
University of New South Wales Alumni
Australian Society of Ophthalmologists
Awards and honours
First prize, Medical Device Commercialisation Training programme, ATP Innovation and NSW Office for Health and Medical Research
Best Health Innovation Product Idea. IDE Group
Awarded as first prize in the ‘Building Better Futures for Health’ product design challenge.
NHMRC Career Development Fellowship
Pride of Australia Nominee
Dunlop Fellowship. Asialink Leaders Programme
Young investigator award, Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society
‘Les is more’ grand final award, episode winner and people’s choice award. The New Inventors, ABC Television, for Autologous ex vivo cultured limbal epithelial cell transplantation.
In the media
Medical Devices Fund award night, NSW Health
Save Sight Registries: Keratoconus module, radio interview November 2015
Hands off your eyes
New York Times, 3 Nov 2014 (Circulation 1,865,315 Daily)
The Daily Telegraph (circulation 280,731), Southern Courier (circulation 46,114), 21 Dec 2014
The Australian Stem Cell handbook
Pride of Australia nomination, Daily Telegraph. 2nd August 2014
Channel 7 news, Watching out for work place dangers. July 30th 2014
Insight, SBS Television, Stem cell therapy, July 15th 2014
2UE, Regenerative Medicine, July 27th 2014
Solutions for sore eyes, You Tube video
Science Radio, Stem cell therapies, 2013
Bright Ideas, Qantas Inflight Magazine, June 2011
Catalyst, ABC Television, March 24th 2011
Women in Ophthalmology, Insight, April 2010
‘Sight for Sore Eyes’ You Tube video. 114,298 hits
The New Inventors. ABC Television. Grand Final Episode 43
The New Inventors. ABC Television. Episode 30
Australian Stem Cell Centre
Australian optometry, August 2011
Uniken, University of New South Wales
UNSW Web Front page story
Eyenet, Clinical Insights from the American Academy of Ophthalmology
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists News, 2009;12(3):9
School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales
Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales
Crabs and eyeballs not usually a good mix TVNZ March 30, 2010
Surgical Glue Made from Crab Shells, Med India March 30, 2010
Crab shell glue could replace stitches, The West Australian, March 30, 2010
A stitch in time, Daily Telegraph, 31 March 2010, PG 24
- NSW Ministry of Health-Development of therapeutics of dry eye; Watson S; NSW Health/Medical Devices Fund.
- An investigation of the host immune reaction in response to corneal infection; Carnt N, Watson S; American Optometric Foundation/Allergan Foundation Research Grant.
- Aromatase inhibitor therapy for breast cancer and dry eyes; Watson S; Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia (ORIA)/Research Grant.
- Developing technology to improve health outcomes in ocular surface and corneal disease; Watson S, Daniell M, Barthelmes D, Bosch M; Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia (ORIA)/Research Grants.
- Development of an Ocular Adhesive Film with Local Drug Delivery to Prevent Infection and Inflammation in Corneal Wounds; Foster L, Watson S, Wakefield D; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
- An ocular thin film adhesive with local drug delivery capabilities; Foster J, Watson S, Wakefield D; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
- Zeiss Confocal Microscope, LSM700; McAvoy J, Martin P, Gillies M, Grunert U, Watson S, Lovicu F; DVC Research/Equipment Grant.
- Asialink Leaders Programme; Watson S; University of Melbourne./Dunlop Fellowship.
- Therapeutics for repair and regeneration of the cornea; Watson S; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Career Development Fellowships.
- A Band-aid for the eye: treatment of corneal wounds and ulcers; Watson S; University of New South Wales/Silverstar Award.
- Limbal Stem Cells; Watson S; University of New South Wales/Gold Star Award.
- SurgiLux-Vancomycin; Watson S; University of New South Wales/Silverstar Award.
- Application of Novel sutureless technology for eye surgery; Watson S; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)/Project Grants.
- A novel autologous contact-lens-based stem-cell-transfer technique for corneal reconstruction and vision restoration in patients with blinding corneal disease; Watson S; Australian Stem Cell Centre/Strategic Development Fund Grant.
- Limbal stem cells; Watson S; University of New South Wales/Faculty Research Grant.
- Material Analysis for Medical Applications; Watson S; University of New South Wales/Major Equipment & Infrastructure Initiative Scheme.
Therapeutic Ocular Surface Medium: Clinical and in vitro studies (University of New South Wales, 2006)