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Investing in engineering

The problem: a skills gap within what was then the ophthalmology department at the University of Liverpool. The department had a strong clinical leaning but was lacking the engineering skills needed to underpin its research.

Our solution: Professor Rachel Williams, a bioengineering specialist, was appointed with the Foundation partly funding her post.

Impact: that support helped bring Professor Williams and the team she gathered into contact with clinicians, using engineering to address many medical issues and to improve clinical outcomes. Their projects include:

  • Growing retinal cells on treated layer of material that is commonly used in waterproof clothing, using 3D printing technologies to transplant those cells into the eyes. This research could restore vision to people affected by dry AMD. Find out more about this project.

  • Developing an antimicrobial contact lens which can incorporate antibiotics and antifungals into the surface. It will be used to prevent and treat microbial keratitis, a major cause of blindness, particularly in the developing world. It also has applications as a bandage to help corneal healing. More on the Eye & Vision Science blog

  • Projects with the Aravind Eye Care System in India, including the development of a novel treatment for keratoconus – chemical cross-linking.
  • An EPSRC fellowship which has driven a collaboration of engineers, basic scientists and clinicians, working to develop advanced materials to overcome vision loss and to address the growing burden of eye healthcare in an ageing population.

As with other projects funded by the Foundation for the Prevention of Blindness, the initial investment has helped to generate additional external funding attracted by Professor Williams which is in excess of £10 million.