Earlier this year, QEI celebrated its 53rd anniversary – our journey began in 1965 when the Australian Foundation for the Prevention of Blindness (Queensland Division), the forerunner of Prevent Blindness Foundation, was incorporated with a mission to establish an academic eye institute to undertake world-class research into diseases that threaten the eye. Fifty-three years on, the Queensland Eye Institute is Queensland’s largest independent academic research institute devoted to eye health.
Each and every day at the Queensland Eye Institute Foundation we work to deliver on our purpose to save sight. As an organisation that receives no government funding, the support of donors, be it small or large enables us to focus on key research themes and projects.
1965-2005: Prevent Blindness Foundation
For much of its early history most of the research supported by the Prevent Blindness Foundation was conducted by Professor Lawrence Hirst.
• Under the guidance of Professor Lawrence Hirst, the first Eye Bank in Queensland was opened, which has distributed to date over 16,000 corneas to patients in Queensland.
• Epidemiological studies led to an understanding of the rates of eye diseases in Queensland, and the role of sunlight exposure in the development of severe eye diseases (Nambour Skin and Eye Study).
• Development of treatments for the ocular surface squamous neoplasm – a common malignancy of the conjunctiva and cornea which can be thought of as the “skin cancer” of the eye.
• Professor Hirst developed a novel surgical treatment for pterygium, known as P.E.R.F.E.C.T. for Pterygium® procedure. Pterygium is the growth of pink, fleshy tissue on the conjunctiva, the clear tissue that lines the eyelids.
• First successful treatment of Paecilomyces endogenous keratitis (a fungal infection of the cornea).
• Professor Hirst and Professor Damien Harkin completed the first Australian clinical trial of cultivated corneal epithelial stem cells for repairing the ocular surface.
The Queensland Eye Institute was opened in 2005.
2006-2018: Queensland Eye Institute
• Successful use of silk fibroin membranes as substrates for growing corneal epithelial cells and retinal epithelial cells; reported for the first time in the scientific literature. Investigators: Professors Traian Chirila and Damien Harkin.
• Successful application of silk fibroin membranes as substrates for corneal endothelial cells; first publication in scientific literature. Investigators: Dr Peter Madden, Professors Traian Chirila and Damien Harkin.
• Investigative work on the growth of corneal endothelial cells from donor eye tissue in the laboratory. These cells form the interior lining of the cornea and are essential for corneal transparency. Investigators: Professor Damien Harkin, Dr Jenny Young and collaborators at the University of Melbourne.
• Developmental work on the isolation of silk sericin, the second major component of silk. It was discovered and reported for the first time that sericin promotes growth of ocular cells better than fibroin. Investigators: Dr Shuko Suzuki and Professor Traian Chirila.
• Developmental work on novel surgical adhesives/sealants based on the chemistry of silk proteins. Investigators: Dr Shuko Suzuki, Professor Traian Chirila and collaborators at the University of Queensland and University of Western Australia.
• Development of an improved animal model of ocular surface disease in order to study the safety and efficacy of potential new therapies. Investigator: Professor Damien Harkin.
• A new concept for an artificial corneal endothelium. Investigators: Professors Traian Chirila and Lawrence Hirst, and Dr Peter Madden.
• Development and successful use of a technique to measure oxidative stress in a glaucoma model, and further development of a fluorescent probe to allow quantification of antioxidant agents. Investigator: Assoc. Professor Nigel Barnett.
• Contributions to the understanding of the interaction of cells and surface of polymers, a fundamental issue in tissue engineering. Investigators: Professor Traian Chirila and collaborators at the University of Queensland.
• Development of a new treatment for the floppy eye syndrome based on photocrosslinking of collagen. Investigators: Dr Tai Smith, Dr Shuko Suzuki and Professor Traian Chirila.
• Development of hydrogel post-surgical dressing pads based on polymer interpenetrating networks. Investigators: Dr Tai Smith, Professor Traian Chirila, Dr Shuko Suzuki, and collaborators at the Queensland University of Technology.