Professor David Mackey AO awarded prestigious glaucoma grant

What is the normal range of intraocular pressure (IOP) in children and young adults, and does it predict later glaucoma? That is the question the recipient of Glaucoma Australia’s ‘Quinlivan’ Research Grant seeks to answer.

Glaucoma Australia and its Patron, the Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency the Honourable David Hurley, are pleased to announce the 2023 glaucoma research grant is awarded to Professor David Mackey AO, Head of the Genetics and Epidemiology Research Group at the Lions Eye Institute.

“I congratulate Professor Mackey on receiving the 2023 Glaucoma Australia ‘Quinlivan’ Research Grant. Since his pioneering work into glaucoma genetics research in 1994, Australia has led the world in this field. I’d like to thank Professor Mackey and his fellow researchers for their continued work, and I wish them the very best in their future endeavours to eliminate glaucoma blindness,” the Governor-General said.

Professor David Mackey AO

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. The main risk factors for glaucoma are family history, genetics and elevated eye pressure. Although we know that middle-aged and older adults with high eye pressure are more likely to develop glaucoma, there is surprisingly little information on eye pressure in young adults and children.

Lead investigator Professor Mackey, who is the world’s most published author in glaucoma genetics, said data on the range and changes of IOP during childhood and early adulthood is limited in both people with a high genetic risk of glaucoma and the general population.

“Although we can now provide a newborn baby their genetic risk for developing glaucoma in adult life, we do not know when we need to initiate examination or intervention in at-risk individuals,” Professor Mackey said.

“We lack data on the normal range of IOP in children and have presumed it is the same as for adults. Funding from the Quinlivan Research Grant will enable us to collect and analyse data from young participants in the Raine Study, whose parents have been followed by researchers for their entire lives. This will enable never-before possible research into the genetic, lifestyle and intergenerational aspects of IOP, as well as the creation of an IOP reference range for children”.

Dr Samantha Lee

Co-investigator and postdoctoral research fellow Dr Samantha Lee said new technology allowed researchers to more easily, and less invasively, measure eye pressure in children with minimal discomfort or need for stinging anaesthetic eye drops.

“We will measure eye pressure in children from the third generation of the Raine Study cohort, to determine the normal range in this age group. We will also examine young adults to determine eye pressure changes through early adult life and whether genetic risk influences pressure at a young age.”

“This will improve our ability to monitor children and young adults at high risk of developing glaucoma and allow more timely intervention with the aim of decreasing glaucoma blindness,” Dr Lee said.

Glaucoma Australia CEO Richard Wylie said “We are committed to supporting Australian research projects like this one which aims to increase the rate and reliability of early detection of glaucoma”.

Being able to identify a child or young adult in need of sight saving glaucoma treatments is a blessing and we are incredibly proud to support Professor Mackey and his team in this important work,” Mr Wylie added.

The Glaucoma Australia ‘Quinlivan’ Research Grants are awarded following rigorous evaluation, based largely on the National Health and Medical Research Council process, along with peer review, to ensure that the successful applicants meet the highest standards. Submissions are reviewed by the Glaucoma Australia Independent Research Panel consisting of internationally recognised experts in glaucoma research including the fields of ophthalmology, optometry and pharmacy.

See below for a video of His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DCS (Retd) awarding the grant.

Hear from Professor Mackey as he talks about the research that has been made possible thanks to the Quinlivan Research Grant.

Reproduced with permission from Glaucoma Australia. 

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