Penny Allen

Assoc Prof Allen received a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1986 from the University of Melbourne and specialised in Ophthalmology. She then sub-specialised in Vitreoretinal surgery and Medical Retina, completing fellowships at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Assoc Prof Allen was the lead surgeon for Bionic Vision Australia and Research Fellow at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, with clinical appointments at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and the Alfred Hospital. She holds an honorary research associate position with the Bionics Institute.
Assoc Prof Allen was a PI on the Australian Research Council (ARC) through its Special Research Initiative in Bionic Vision Science and Technology grant to Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) and has ongoing research support from the NHMRC, ORIA and the CASS foundation.

Assoc Prof Allen was key to the developing the surgical technique for the suprachoroidal retinal prosthesis, resulting in the first clinical trial of this device in three human patients. This collaboration has resulted in 2 licenced patents. Acknowledgement of this was her inclusion in the shortlist for an Australian Eureka prize for interdisciplinary research. Dr Allen’s research and publications on endophthalmitis have resulted in the development of protocols for the management of endophthalmitis at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and also resulted in a strategy to reduce the incidence of endogenous endophthalmitis in injecting drug users that was utilised across Victoria. In addition she was asked to advise regarding the endophthalmitis guidelines for the Epworth Hospital.

Rachel Barnes

Dr Rachel Barnes is an ophthalmologist with a special interest in retinal disorders. She completed her medical and ophthalmology training in Auckland and Waikato, followed by 1 year studying and working at the prestigious Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, and 6 months at St Paul’s Eye Unit in Liverpool. As well as being a founding member of the Retina Specialists group, Dr Barnes also works at Greenlane Hospital eye department and is an honorary clinical lecturer at Auckland University department of Ophthalmology. She has been involved in a number of research projects and is a reviewer for the journal: Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology. Dr Barnes is currently the New Zealand representative on the committee of the Australian and New Zealand society of retinal specialists.

Jean Bennett


Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, the F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics (CAROT) at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She has developed gene transfer approaches to test treatment strategies for retinal degenerative and ocular neovascular diseases, to elucidate retinal differentiation pathways and to identify pathogenetic mechanisms that lead to blindness.  Her research with Dr. Albert Maguire, conducted at UPenn over the past 25 years, has established the scientific underpinnings which made it possible to test the first potential definitive retinal gene therapy treatment for patients with blinding retinal degenerations. Dr. Bennett’s Center continues to work hard to develop treatments that could be applied to other genetic and acquired blinding conditions.

Gerald Chader

Dr. Chader began his research career as an Andelot Fellow in the Dept. of Biological Chemistry at Harvard Medical School. He is now affiliated with the Department of Ophthalmology and Roski Eye Institute of the Keck School of Medicine at USC.

Academically, Dr. Chader specializes in vision research, focusing on the neural retina. His goal is to find practicable ways to bring preventions, treatments and cures to patients with untreated or poorly treated eye diseases such as the inherited retinal degenerations. At USC, he has worked with the team that has recently brought an electronic retinal implant (Artificial Vision) to approval for implantation in patients with inherited retinal degenerative diseases. He has served as Executive Director of the California Project to Cure Blindness, a consortium of investigators now testing the use of stem cells in treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration and other retinal degenerations in a clinical trial.

Narme Deva

Dr Narme Deva is a Consultant Ophthalmologist practicing at Auckland Hospital, Eye Institute and Retina Specialists. She graduated from Auckland Medical School, and has also been awarded a Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Auckland for research into the modulation of wound healing and inflammation in the eye. Following the completion of her Vocational Ophthalmology training, she spent over two years at the prestigious Moorfields Eye Hospital in London with dedicated fellowships in Medical Retina, Uveitis and Cataract Surgery.

Rob Drummond

Rob’s background is in the optical industry where he has held numerous positions within retail and wholesale businesses after qualifying as an Optical Dispenser from Sydney Technical College in 1980. In 1981 he began working within the Low Vision sector for O.P.S.M. Visual Aids gaining experience at Royal Blind Society, Concord Rehabilitation Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital. During this period he also was on the teaching staff of the Guild of Dispensing Opticians. After having moved to Perth and, having lived there for 13 years running his own Optical Dispensing businesses, he moved back to Sydney and soon after started working for Quantum Technology in 2004 as Low Vision Consultant in New South Wales.

Rob is now a Director of Quantum Technology and has gained a wealth of experience within the low vision field having travelled around Australia and overseas to numerous trade shows and exhibitions. Rob has had extensive training by manufacturers and producers of assistive technology. Quantum Technology now has an extensive range of software and hardware for people with a learning disability, who are blind or have low vision. He spends most of his time helping vision impaired people to make the correct choice of assistive technology to help them remain or regain their independence.

Thomas Edwards

Tom EdwardsTom Edwards, Ph.D. is a vitreoretinal surgeon with an interest in inherited retinal degenerations. He undertook a PhD at the University of Cambridge (UK) before completing his ophthalmology training at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH). He has recently returned from a fellowship under Prof Robert MacLaren in the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford (UK). He is involved in a number of ongoing research projects, including retinal gene therapy and the use of an electronic retinal implant for partial restoration of vision in advanced retinitis pigmentosa. He is now based at the RVEEH and the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) in Melbourne, Australia.

Mark Gillies

Professor Mark GilliesProfessor Mark Gillies is a clinician-scientist who is Director of Research, Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney. The Macula Research Group’s (MRG) Clinical Research Unit has conducted several major investigator-initiated randomized clinical trials, including the first to demonstrate the efficacy of intraocular steroid injections for any ophthalmic disease. The MRG’s Observational Studies Unit has developed internet-based software to track the outcomes of treatment of macular disease. The main interests of the MRG’s laboratory include the relationships between retinal glia and neurons in retinal disease with particular interest in outer retinal metabolism. Mark was a founder member and for many years the Chair of the Scientific Executive Committee of the MacTel Project.

Robert Greenberg

Robert Greenberg is Dean of Arts at the University of Auckland.  He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when he was 13, and became legally blind at age 18.  He earned his BA at Sarah Lawrence College and then went ot to get his MA and PhD at Yale University in Slavic Languages and literatures.  He specialises in the languages of the former Yugoslavia, and spent 18 months living in the Balkan region.  After completing his PhD, he taught at Yale, Georgetown, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He was a Dean in the United States since 2003 and in 2013 joined the University of Auckland as Professor and Dean.

David Heaney

David Heaney is an Auckland lawyer.  He qualified from Auckland University with both a commerce and law degree and has been in practice as a civil litigator since 1976.  He was first diagnosed with Stargardt’s Maculopathy in the late 1970s and his eyesight deteriorated through the early 1980s.  David has not been able to read normally since then but has nevertheless progressed with his career as a lawyer and rising to be the senior partner in one of New Zealand’s most successful litigation firms.  He has had a successful career as a court lawyer and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2008.  He continues to practice now as a barrister sole and is an example of how determination can overcome substantial sight loss when it comes to career development..

Elise Héon

Dr. Héon is a Clinician-Scientist in the field of Ocular Genetics, Director of the Eye Genetics Program and Senior Associate Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in the program of Genetics and Genomics Biology. Her laboratory, supported by peer-reviewed grants, is involved in the genetic analysis of inherited eye disorders such retinal dystrophies most specifically.

Her clinical work focuses on the management of hereditary eye diseases, which include hereditary cancer (retinoblastoma) and other non-cancerous blinding conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa. Dr. Héon’s role as Director of the Ocular Genetics program is to ensure that patients are provided with state of the art global care. This program is unique in Canada and part of only a few in the world. Through her research Dr. Heon works to better understand disease characteristics and mechanisms with the goal of improving outcome and quality of life of patients.

Alex Hewitt

Associate Professor Alex Hewitt is a Principal Research Fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the School of Medicine at the University of Tasmania, as well as a Principal Investigator at the Centre for Eye Research Australia. He is supported by a NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship and his major research interest lie in the ophthalmic applications of stem cell and gene-editing technology. Alex obtained his PhD investigating the molecular and phenotypic associations for glaucoma from Flinders University of South Australia in 2009, and completed formal Ophthalmology training at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital two years later. After undertaking a fellowship in inherited eye diseases at the Lions Eye Institute in Perth, Alex returned to Melbourne and with A/Prof Alice Pébay commenced the large-scale banking of cell lines from patients with and without a variety of eye diseases. Together they have established a laboratory for automated processing of induced pluripotent stem cells. In 2014, Alex expanded his laboratory to Hobart, where his team have been applying CRISPR/Cas-gene editing technology to better understand and treat inherited eye diseases.

Thiran Jayasundera

Dr. Jayasundera is Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan. His clinical practice is in vitreoretinal surgery, retinal dystrophies, electrophysiological testing, and posterior uveitis. His NIH funded research program focuses on inherited retinal degenerations – his goal is to identify patients at an earlier age to be able to 1) provide the correct genetic diagnosis, 2) give an accurate prognosis, 3) help guide the choice of treatment, such as gene therapy, and 4) develop outcome measures which will determine progression of their disease state in therapeutic trials.

Jonathan Mosen

Jonathan Mosen is a broadcaster, advocate, information technology consultant, and IT product designer. Blind from birth, he has a BA in History and Political Studies from the University of Auckland, and a Master’s in Public Policy from the Victoria University of Wellington. He has stood for Parliament twice, and managed a successful Government relations programme for the Foundation for the Blind, achieving significant legislative change. He has served as the Chairman of the Blind Foundation, as well as President of the advocacy organisation, Blind Citizens New Zealand.

Jonathan has held senior management roles in two of the largest multinational IT companies serving blind people and those with low vision, designing a range of innovative products. He now operates his own consultancy company, through which he publishes eBooks and audiobooks, consults on advocacy strategies, and advises companies on accessibility issues. He is sought worldwide to offer commentary on assistive technology and its impact on disabled people, and beta tests a wide range of software for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS. He continues to host his popular weekly Internet radio show, The Mosen Explosion.

Alice Pébay

Associate Professor Alice Pébay obtained her PhD in Neurosciences from the University of Paris VI in 2001 and subsequently joined Professor Martin Pera at Monash University to undertake research on human pluripotent stem cells. She then continued her research in this area at the University of Melbourne where she commenced in 2007. Since 2012, Alice has been appointed to both the Centre for Eye Research Australia and The University of Melbourne. There she is the head of the Neuroregeneration Research Unit, which aims to use patient specific stem cells to model blinding diseases. Alice was awarded a NHMRC Career development Fellowship in 2012 and subsequently an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship in 2014. Alice is the primary inventor of three granted international patents related to stem cell technology and neurotrauma.

Eric A. Pierce

Eric A. Pierce, M.D., Ph.D. is the Solman and Libe Friedman Professor of Ophthalmology, Director of the Ocular Genomics Institute, Director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations, and Director of the Inherited Retinal Disorders Service in the Department of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Pierce received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.  He did his residency in Ophthalmology at Harvard and fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital, Boston where he also took his first faculty position.  He was then recruited to the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.  He returned to Harvard in 2011 to establish the Ocular Genomics Institute.  He became Director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory and Inherited Retinal Disorders Service in 2014.  His research program is focused on understanding the molecular bases of inherited retinal degenerations, and developing gene and genetic therapies for these conditions.  He and his colleagues are also doing several clinical trials of gene and stem cell therapies for inherited retinal disorders.

Matthew Rudland

Matthew Rudland is an Adaptive Technology Trainer with the Blind Foundation in New Zealand. His role includes working with blind and low vision people in work, study or at home; to find the best adaptive technology solutions to independently use computers, smart phones, tablets, OCR devices, as well as learn Braille and Braille devices.

Coming from a background in education and IT, Matthew has had a passion for technology since his first Commodore Vic 20 computer in the eighties.  With qualifications in computing and teaching, Matthew also holds current certifications in Braille, Jaws, NVDA and ZoomText.

Ilva Rupenthal

Dr Ilva Rupenthal is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Auckland, and the inaugural Director of the Buchanan Ocular Therapeutics Unit (BOTU), which aims to translate ocular therapeutic related scientific research into the clinical setting, whether pharmaceutical, cell or technology based. The BOTU team is currently researching a number of ocular therapeutics and drug delivery devices in the area of dry eye, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration management.

Dianne Sharp

Dr Dianne Sharp, MBChB, FRACS, FRANZCO, graduated from Otago Medical School, completed Ophthalmology training in Auckland and a two-year medical retinal fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.  She works as a Medical Retina specialist, working with medical therapies for diseases of the retina including macular degeneration, diabetes and vascular diseases. These treatments include photodynamic therapy and intravitreal therapy with Avastin, Lucentis and Eylea. She established the Ophthalmic Electrodiagnostic units in Auckland which provide a diagnostic service for acquired and inherited retinal disorders. To assist the rehabilitation of patients she was involved in the establishment of a multidisciplinary visual rehabilitation clinic at Auckland Hospital and the patient support group, Retina NZ. ln 2009 she established Macular Degeneration New Zealand (MDNZ). This charitable trust aims to reduce the incidence and impact of MD in NZ.

Dianne has been a principal investigator in international trials involved in the treatment and management of diabetic macular oedema and macular degeneration. She is co-author of a number of scientific publications. She is a member of Retina International Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, Oceania Retina Association and ANZSRS (RANZCO special interest group). In 2017 she was awarded the RANZCO Distinguished Service Medal for services to ophthalmology including the establishment of Macular Degeneration NZ.

David Squirrell

David graduated from Sheffield Medical School in the UK in 1995, completing his general ophthalmology training in South Yorkshire before embarking on a series of UK and overseas sub-specialty fellowships in the field of Medical retina. By good fortune David found himself working as a Medical retinal fellow in 2005 just as avastin was first being used for AMD in New Zealand.  David then returned to the UK in 2006 to establish  the first antiVEGF service in the NHS  holding this appointment for 3 years.  The attraction of Aotearoa however proved too strong and in 2009 he and his family returned to New Zealand rejoining the Medical retina team at Greenlane.
David is now employed as Consultant Ophthalmologist at Greenlane Hospital with responsibilities in medical retina; he also holds an honorary position with the University of Auckland. Davids current research interests retinal imaging and new therapeutics for AMD and Diabetic retinopathy.

 Andrea Vincent

Associate Professor Andrea Vincent is an Ophthalmologist Clinician-Scientist, with overseas fellowship training in Ocular Genetics, to become the only Molecular Ophthalmologist in New Zealand, and Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, New Zealand National Eye centre, University of Auckland. She sees paediatric and adult patients, both in public at Greenlane Clinical Centre, Auckland, and in private practice at Retina Specialists. She has established an Ocular Genetic Research facility in the department which undertakes research projects into the genetics of inherited eye diseases including the inherited retinal dystrophies. A database for Inherited Retinal diseases has over 650 participants. Ongoing research collaborations nationally and internationally aim to characterise novel mutations by modelling retinal disease in zebrafish, and to elucidate the outstanding mutations in this cohort. A/Prof Vincent has 60 research publications and 2 book chapters, is an examiner for RANZCO, on the board of the ORIA, a section editor for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, and on the editorial board of Ophthalmic Genetics, and Orphanet Journal of Rare diseases.

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