Advisory Committees

The Scientific & Medical Advisory Committee

This committee’s function is to inform and advise Retina Australia about worldwide scientific and medical developments pertaining to inherited retinal diseases. The Scientific & Medical Advisory Committee comprises Retina Australia’s two appointed delegates to the Retina International Scientific and Medical Advisory Board and the Chair of Retina Australia’s Grants Advisory Committee. One or more additional members may be co-opted by the Committee or appointed by the Board, if so desired.  Currently the  members are Professor Erica Fletcher, Professor Michael Kalloniatis, Professor John Grigg, Professor David Mackey and Dr Glyn Chidlow. 

Professor Erica Fletcher  
Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, The University of Melbourne

Erica Fletcher is Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at The University of Melbourne, where she heads the Visual Neuroscience Laboratory. She is a clinically trained optometrist who holds both MSc and PhD degrees. 

Professor Fletcher’s interest in the mechanisms of photoreceptor degeneration stem back to her doctoral studies. In 1996, Professor Fletcher was awarded a highly coveted CJ Martin Award from the NH&MRC (Australia) to undertake her post-doctoral training with Professor Dr Heinz Wässle, at the Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany.  Professor Fletcher was appointed to an academic position in 2000 at The University of Melbourne. In 2006 she was awarded the Irvin M and Beatrice Borish Award from the American Academy of Optometry for her contribution to vision research. Professor Fletcher’s research interests remain primarily focussed on understanding the causes of inherited retinal diseases.

Professor Michael Kalloniatis
Director, Centre for Eye Health, University of New South Wales

With expertise in retinal anatomy and neurochemistry, Professor Kalloniatis is a highly experienced optometrist with a range of academic and research experience who has maintained clinical practice throughout his career.

Upon completion of his optometry degree at the University of Melbourne in 1981, he continued his studies with a Master’s degree evaluating the visual characteristics of low vision children. Professor Kalloniatis then undertook his PhD at the University of Houston, Texas, studying colour vision processing in the monkey visual system. After receiving his doctorate he remained in the USA, accepting an appointment as a National Institute of Health Research Fellow at the University of Texas. With his interest in retinal neurochemistry and anatomy, he received a post-doctoral award to study retinal circuitry. In 1991 he returned to Melbourne to take up a lectureship at the University of Melbourne. During this time he established a neuroanatomical laboratory and a visual psychophysics laboratory, also training a number of PhD students.

In 2001 Professor Kalloniatis was appointed the Robert G Leitl Chair and Head of the Department of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Auckland. In collaboration with the Department of Ophthalmology, he was also instrumental in setting up the New Zealand National Eye Centre, which opened during 2008. In May 2009 Professor Kalloniatis commenced his role as Director, Centre for Eye Health, an initiative of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

Professor John Grigg
Eye Genetics Research Group, Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney

Professor John Grigg is Head of the Discipline of Ophthalmology at The University of Sydney’s Save Sight Institute. He also consults at Sydney Eye Hospital and The Children’s Hospital Westmead.

Professor Grigg is passionate about helping children and adults with blinding eye conditions. He is involved in caring for patients, researching new ways to save sight and teaching the next generation of eye doctors. With sub-specialties in glaucoma, cataract, paediatric and genetic ophthalmology and clinical electrophysiology, Professor Grigg completed his training at Sydney Eye Hospital and undertook fellowships in Australia and the UK. His research interests are genetic eye disease, glaucoma management and electrophysiology of the visual system. 

Professor Grigg has authored numerous publications and textbook chapters on glaucoma and paediatric eye disease, and is a leader in the emerging field of laser cataract surgical techniques.

Professor David Mackey
Director of Centre for Ophthalmology and Visual Science, University of Western Australia
Head of Research, Clinical Genetics & Epidemiology, Lions Eye Institute, Western Australia

Professor Mackey has achieved international recognition as a genetic ophthalmologist/scientist. His original research over more than 25 years into the genetics of glaucoma and in the fields of optic atrophy and congenital cataract has received continued research funding support.

Professor Mackey has coordinated an international consortium in eight countries to establish the frequency of Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) mutations in 130 pedigrees with almost 12,000 family members. His doctoral thesis and ongoing work into LHON identified two of the three main mutations predisposing to the disease and established the phenotype-genotype correlations (in particular genetic and age risk for visual recovery). His research extends beyond the laboratory to cascade genetic screening for at-risk individuals.

With the identification of the genetic causes of many eye diseases and the extensive cataloguing of genotype-phenotype data for Australian pedigrees, Professor Mackey’s group assists in providing national diagnostic and counselling services that allow accurate information to be provided to patients and eye care providers and avoid unnecessary investigations and uncertainty. At the Lions Eye Institute Professor Mackey provides second opinions for patients with rare genetic eye diseases and more common genetic eye diseases involving new genetic research
Glyn Chidlow

Dr Glyn Chidlow
Research Scientist, South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology and University of Adelaide

Dr Chidlow is an internationally recognised ophthalmic scientist with special interests in retinal pathology, neuroprotection and immunohistochemistry. Dr Chidlow has developed extensive skills for this research. Specifically, he has directly supervised all of the recent laboratory investigations using the rd1 mouse model of RP, namely the  spatiotemporal characterisation of cone degeneration and microglial activation in the rd1 retina, and, two studies that have assessed the neuroprotective efficacies of the bioenergetic supplement creatine and of the microglial suppressor minocycline on cone survival in the rd1 mouse. He has a particular interest and expertise in retinal immunohistochemistry. Dr Chidlow developed and refined the use of RT-PCR as an important tool in neuroprotection-based ophthalmic research. This technique, using whole retinas for analysis, is now employed routinely by a number of centres around the world.

Dr Chidlow has published numerous high quality studies investigating retinal injury and neuroprotection in various models of disease, using immunohistochemical, histological, and molecular techniques. He has proven experience of studying macro-and micro-glial responses to injury, and has published a considerable number of studies looking at laser-tissue interactions. He is a world-leading retinal immunohistochemist and takes a “hands on” approach to all the in vivo techniques.

Photo of Fred Chen

Associate Professor Fred Chen, Head of Research, Ocular Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Lions Eye Institute, Perth

Associate Professor Fred Chen is a clinician researcher in inherited retinal diseases. He was awarded a PhD from University College London in retinal cell transplantation for treatment of retinal degenerations. Upon return to Perth in 2011, he established the Ocular Tissue Engineering Laboratory at Lions Eye Institute to develop personalised gene-based and drug treatment for ocular genetic diseases. He is a principal investigator for clinical trials in novel drugs for various forms of retinal diseases including Stargardt disease and Usher syndrome. He has published over 200 research articles his team is supported by NHMRC funding.

Grants Advisory Committee

The Grants Advisory Committee examines and makes recommendations about grant applications that are received. Retina Australia provides annual research grants in Australia and New Zealand for scientific and medical research relevant to the causes, treatment, prevention or cure of inherited retinal diseases.

Applications for these grants are considered and ranked by the Grants Advisory Committee. These rankings, and associated reports, are taken into account by the Retina Australia Board in determining the allocation of grants from available funds for the calendar year following the application. The Board appoints a Chair for this Committee, who provides the names and qualifications of other suitably qualified persons to be members of the Committee. No Committee member may be a current year grantee or a grant applicant for the following calendar year. No more than one person from any one institution is appointed to membership of the Committee in any one year. The Chair may also call on suitably qualified peer reviewers to provide expert comment on individual applications in order to assist the Committee in their consideration and ranking of the applications.

The members of the Grants Advisory Committee are:

  • Professor John Grigg (Chair)
    Eye Genetics Research Group, Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney
  • Professor Erica Fletcher  
    Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Glyn Chidlow
    Research Scientist, South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology and University of Adelaide
  • Associate Professor Fred Chen
    Lead Researcher, Ocular Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Lions Eye Institute, Perth