Dr Samuel McLenachan

Dr Sam McLenachan is the Senior Scientist of the Ocular Tissue Engineering Laboratory and a Lead Researcher in the Genetic Eye Disease and Gene Therapy research program at the Lions Eye Institute. Throughout his career Dr McLenachan’s research has focused on understanding and combining the elements necessary for the translation of molecular technologies into new treatments for previously incurable diseases.

Towards this end, Dr McLenachan has established a world-class disease modelling and gene therapy screening pipeline, in which skin cells collected from patients with inherited diseases can be reprogrammed to produce their own retinal tissues in the lab. These patient-derived retinal tissues represent the ideal cellular model for pre-clinical evaluation of potential therapies for incurable retinal diseases.

Drawing on a strong background in molecular, cellular and retinal biology, Dr McLenachan has developed several new approaches to the treatment of inherited retinal diseases, which are currently undergoing pre-clinical evaluation in his laboratory.

Education/academic qualifications/roles responsibilities

  • Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, The University of Western Australia (2019-present)
  • Senior Scientist, Ocular Tissue Engineering, Lions Eye Institute, Perth (2011-present)
  • Research Associate, Ocular Immunology, Lions Eye Institute, Perth (2009-2011)
  • Post-Doctoral Scientist, Neural Regeneration Laboratory, Centre for Neuroscience, University of Melbourne (2005-2008)
  • Doctorate of Philosophy, University of Melbourne (awarded 2005)
  • Research Assistant, Malaghan Institute, Wellington (1999-2000)
  • Bachelor of Science, (Honours, 1st Class), Massey University (awarded 1999)
  • Laboratory Assistant, Biochemistry/Microbiology, MedLab Central, Palmerston North (1995-1998)

Awards/Professional achievements

  • Best Poster Prize, Science on the Swan, May 2016, Perth, Western Australia
  • Travel Grant, Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting, 2002, New Zealand
  • Melbourne Research Scholarship, Melbourne University, 2000-2004
  • Travel Grant, New Zealand Society for Oncology Meeting, 1998, New Zealand

Grants/scholarships/funding overview


  • NHMRC Medical Research Future Fund: Chief Investigator A $2,215,018 (2022-2025)
  • NHMRC Equipment Grant: Chief Investigator $50,000 (2021)
  • Novartis: Co-Investigator, $44,846 (2021)
  • NHMRC Ideas Grant: Chief Investigator $1,150,000 (2020-2025)
  • Macular Disease Foundation Australia: CI7 $120,000 (2018-19)
  • Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation: Chief Investigator $239,960 (2018-19)
  • Retina Australia: Chief Investigator $40,000 (2018)
  • Telethon Perth Children’s Hospital Research Fund: Associate Investigator, $249,880 (2018)
  • Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia: Chief-Investigator-A, $50,000 (2016)
  • Raine Priming Grant: Chief Investigator A $200,000 (2014-15)

Research Activity

Inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) are the most common cause of blindness in children and working-aged adults. These diseases are caused by errors in the genetic code that lead to dysfunction and degeneration of the retina. Although techniques for rewriting the genetic code and manipulating gene expression have been available in the laboratory for decades, many obstacles have limited their successful application in a clinical setting.

Over time, these limitations have been progressively eroded by the collective efforts of scientists working to develop new gene therapies, recently culminating in the first approved gene therapy for an IRD. The purpose of the Ocular Tissue Engineering Laboratory is to bridge the gap between advanced laboratory techniques and the clinical setting. Our team’s activities incorporate biobanking of patient materials, reprogramming and gene editing of patient skin cells into retinal tissues, the establishment of new animal models of IRDs and the design and screening of new gene therapies. These activities support projects aimed at the discovery and evaluation of new disease-causing gene mutations and biomarkers of disease; the identification of the molecular mechanisms involved in IRDs; and the development and pre-clinical evaluation of gene therapies for a broad range of IRDs.

Leading Publications

  • Roles of Eph receptors and ephrins in the normal and damaged adult CNS.
  • Growth hormone promotes proliferation of adult neurosphere cultures.
  • Accumulation of murine subretinal macrophages: effects of age, pigmentation and CX3CR1.
  • Differential effects of SOCS2 on neuronal differentiation and morphology.
  • Flow-cytometric analysis of mouse embryonic stem cell lipofection using small and large DNA constructs.

To read more publications from this researcher, go to https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/.


  • International Patent PCT/AU2020/050516, May 2020: NOVEL RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA TREATMENT (Co-contributor)
Dr Samuel McLenachan
Dr Samuel McLenachan

Genetic Eye Disease, Gene Therapies & Macular Degeneration,

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