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National centre for eye research

Media release
29 July 2008

National centre for eye research

A national research centre focussing on eye health and vision will be launched today at The University of Auckland.

This vision health and eye research centre will bring together clinicians from throughout New Zealand and scientists in the fields of ophthalmology, optometry, eye health and vision science. The New Zealand National Eye Centre (NZ-NEC), as a premier vision research institution in Australasia, will develop and increase the profile of eye health, vision research and education in New Zealand.

“The establishment of the National Eye Centre is the culmination of more than eight years of collaboration and planning by researchers at the University,” says Professor Charles McGhee, Director of the Centre and Head of the Department of Ophthalmology. “By combining the resources of all the research programmes in the area, we have increased capability to answer questions of importance to the eye health of New Zealanders and worldwide.”

Research programmes currently underway at the Centre include developing treatments for eye disease, including cataract, glaucoma, keratoconus and retinal disease; new approaches to eye surgery and wound healing; understanding the mechanisms of human vision and how this can be affected; and developing new technologies for the treatment of vision defects.

The Centre builds a local framework for collaborative funding applications to expand existing research programmes, including translation of laboratory science to clinical application, to better address the needs of New Zealand and global eye health. The combined clinical resources will expand the scope of clinical research and promote cross disciplinary research, with the NZ-NEC becoming a national centre for clinical trials related to eye and vision care and the centre for the assessment of rare ocular disease in New Zealand. It will also provide an enhanced environment for teaching and training of undergraduate students, postgraduate researchers and professional education programmes.

“Over 100,000 people suffer from visual impairment and blindness in New Zealand, with most conditions causing vision loss being preventable or treatable,” says Professor Michael Kalloniatis, Deputy Director of the Centre and Head of the Department of Optometry. “Visual impairment will increase as the population ages, and is predicted to double by 2024. The research at the National Eye Centre will take a comprehensive view of the eye, combining basic science and clinical knowledge, to address these problems and also provide cutting-edge training and education to the ophthalmic professions.”

The Centre will host over 100 staff in fourteen research teams from the University’s Department of Ophthalmology in the Faculty of Medical and Health Science and the Department of Optometry in the Faculty of Science, with the vision to eliminate preventable blindness and reduce visual impairment in New Zealand’s multicultural and aging population.

ENDS

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