Prof Gordon Wallace: Fighting corneal blindness with innovation

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Posted
December 20, 2021
Author
Sam Findlay
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The NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research formally announced the establishment of BIENCO last week, a consortium funded by the Australian Medical Research Futures Fund and established to pursue the development of a bioengineered cornea.

 

 

Currently, donor corneas are available for only 1 in 70 patients worldwide, with 53 per cent of the world’s population unable to access this tissue. We take on the global challenge of corneal blindness, the third most common cause of blindness in the world.

 

On behalf of the Innovation team at last week’s event, I was asked to share a few words – and here is the gist of it…

 

Rapid developments in biomaterials, advanced fabrication, imaging and cell biology have converged to make our goal possible – the bioengineered cornea.

 

Of course, technologies don’t converge by themselves. People have to carry them to the convergence party. People have to converse and engage to determine how we best integrate these advances and move forward to solve the challenges in front of us.

 

These people are leaders in their individual fields, willing to listen and learn from others – sometimes even at the expense of their own opinion. That is what enables the convergence of technologies and provides a fertile environment for innovation.

 

The combination of very special abilities in these individuals enables them to be a part of an integrated and effective team, and such teams are capable of great things – even creating a bioengineered cornea.

 

Can you imagine recreating the complex structure that is the Cornea? Well, we can!

 

We have identified the most appropriate sources of biomaterials and living cells that will provide mechanical support and yet provide freedom of movement so that biology can occur.

 

We have developed fabrication methods that result in unique assemblies that provide transparency, robustness and cell compatibility.

 

We have identified pathways that will enable all layers of the bioengineered cornea to be fully integrated.

 

We are developing the most effective deployment methods so as this technology can be accessed across Australia and, indeed, across the world.

 

We have available to us expertise, facilities and equipment to make this vision a reality.

 

As a team, we have integrated individuals with skills in regulation, health economics and commercialisation with scientists, engineers and clinicians to enable us to jump all the hurdles needed to realise the delivery of real products to patients.

 

We recognise innovation does not stop at the research bench – it begins there. We recognise the importance of input from all of our colleagues in delivering the bioengineered cornea.

 

We are yet to complete this journey but there is nothing in front of us that says we can’t!

 

On behalf of an amazing team of innovators, thank you for your ongoing support. Your support will help the team complete the journey.

 

Read the full BIENCO media release here.

 

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn by Prof Gordon Wallace

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