Long-time CERA supporter, Jude, is slowly losing her peripheral vision as a result of the degenerative eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
“As I head towards my early retirement years, I had always hoped to wind down but never to be forced to slow down! In my daily life I need to be particularly slow and careful or I am forever sending items flying from the kitchen bench, missing steps and pavement kerbs and bumping into things. I recently found myself apologising to a pillar in the Hamer Hall having had a particularly hefty run-in with what I thought was a rather burly man!
Jude’s story is the focus of our 2019 Tax Appeal that launched this month to raise funds for our world-leading research into stem cell and gene therapies. Our vision is that these new technologies could be used with patients like Jude to slow the progression of inherited eye diseases, or even restore vision, within the next decade.
“I am excited to be practising as a clinician at a time when revolutionary treatments for people facing blindness are within our reach,” said Professor Keith Martin, Managing Director at CERA.
Globally, gene therapy has advanced further in the eye than any other organ. Gene therapy for the retina (the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye) works by fixing a spelling mistake in the genetic code of retinal cells. This error in the genetic blueprints may have been inherited from one or both parents or may have arisen by chance.
The effect of this spelling mistake is to cause degeneration of retinal cells, leading to progressive blindness. Using gene therapy, a normal copy of the gene is delivered to the retina, via a ‘safe’ virus, which prevents further vision loss and, in some cases, restores vision.
Dr Raymond Wong, Head of Head, Cellular Reprogramming at CERA.
“Here in Melbourne, our amazing team of researchers, including Dr Tom Edwards, Professor Alex Hewitt and Dr Raymond Wong, are making significant progress in developing new gene therapies for a range of common retinal degenerative disorders.”
“With your help, we could be ready to perform clinical trials in humans within the next two years.” he said.
CERA’s fundraising target is $500,000 before 30 June 2019 – an ambitious but achievable goal with the generous support of our donors.
In Jude’s words: “CERA and their researchers are dedicated in their quest to find answers for the healing and prevention of RP and other forms of blindness – let us help them continue!”