Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 - Centre for Eye Research Australia, Ellex, Brumby Labor Government
A revolutionary new laser treatment for one of the leading causes of blindness is showing promise in a trial funded by the Brumby Labor Government.

Innovation Minister Gavin Jennings said the trial into dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) being conducted at the Melbourne-based Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) was leading the world in treatment for the debilitating disease.

“By helping fund trials such as the world-first retina regeneration therapy the Brumby Labor Government is taking action to improve the health of millions of people,” Mr Jennings said.

“Victoria is home to some of the world’s leading scientists and scientific facilities and we are committed to supporting this innovative industry that not only improves the quality of lives for Victorians but also creates jobs.”

AMD is a progressive disease affecting the central area of the retina called the macula. Half a million Australians – 15 per cent of people over 50 – live with the early stages of the disease. It is the leading cause of vision loss in Australia and is estimated to cost the community more than $2.6 billion annually.

Mr Jennings said the Retina Regeneration Therapy (Ellex 2RT™) would be trialled on 50 patients and of the 14 to have undergone the treatment so far most had shown signs of improvement in the degenerative state of the retina.

“The results so far are extremely exciting. The treatment is working consistently and given the positive results to date it is likely people around the world will be keen to use the treatment – the only treatment available to slow the disease,” he said.

The Brumby Labor Government provided $540,000 through the $41 million Victoria’s Science Agenda Investment Fund for CERA to conduct the trial.

The trial is being conducted by CERA and the University of Melbourne in partnership with Ellex. It is being carried out at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, with further research contributed to by Dr Erica Fletcher and Professor Algis Vingrys from the University of Melbourne.

Head of Macular Research at CERA Professor Robyn Guymer said unlike existing AMD treatments, Ellex 2RT™ targets the disease in its early stages, before sight is lost.

“What has been quite unexpected in the trials so far is that the treatment is arresting progression not only in the treated eye but, intriguingly, in the other eye as well,” Prof Guymer said.

Prof Guymer said the treatment involves a novel laser device, an Australian designed and manufactured laser by Ellex R&D Pty Ltd which is specially designed to deliver a controlled nanosecond dose of laser energy into the eye.

“These initial results suggest Retinal Regeneration Therapy eliminates the yellow deposits known as ‘drusen’ which are present in the retinal tissue of people with age-related macular degeneration,” she said.

“Disappearance of the drusen hopefully reflects a slowing or reversal of the degenerative processes that lead to the disease.”

The announcement coincides with BIO2010 in Chicago, USA where the Governor of Victoria Professor David de Kretser AC is leading a Victorian consortium of investors and biotechnology companies.

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Lyall Johnson

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Brumby Labour Government, Centre for Eye Research Australia, Ellex, revolutionary laser treatment



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