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Overview
Visionary Surgery for a Clearer tomorrow

TThe HYGELIX Project is an international collaboration between researchers, eye bankers and corneal surgeons in Australia and the United States.
With funding support from the Victorian Government, our Team is committed to developing solutions that will reduce avoidable corneal blindness, with the aim of benefiting millions of people around the world who are waiting for a corneal transplant.

To address global need, we are developing a surgical glue and scaffold product, called HYGELIX.
HYGELIX attaches to donated corneal tissue.
It makes a corneal surgery, called an Endothelial Keratoplasty (EK), easier to perform, and ensures donated tissue is used effectively.

The HYGELIX Project
We are making it easier for corneal surgeons to perform sight restoring surgery.

Our Australian Team

The Project
What is the HYGELIX Project?

There are an estimated 13 million people worldwide awaiting a corneal transplant. Of those, 5.2 million could benefit from a surgical procedure called an Endothelial Keratoplasty (EK), whereby the affected endothelial layer of the cornea is replaced with a donor endothelial layer, rather than the replacement of the full cornea.

While the surgery would assist millions of people, the procedure is difficult to perform because the endothelial tissue tends to roll-up making it difficult to un-scroll and position in the patient’s eye. This results in surgeon reluctance to perform the procedure, despite the significant benefits of this technique, including faster recovery times, shorter procedures, and better patient outcomes.

Our Team has developed a novel solution that will significantly improve the EK procedure, making it easier for surgeons to perform, and in turn ensures the procedure is available to waiting recipients.

The solution is a hydrogel scaffold (HYGELIX) which is an ultra-thin polyethylene glycol-based hydrogel support that binds to donated endothelial tissue. HYGELIX supports and protects the tissue, minimises tissue scrolling and makes the positioning of the tissue, during surgery, easier.

Our Solution

The HYGELIX scaffold will be supplied to eye banks (who manage the corneal donation process, and allocate tissue for surgery). The eye bank will place the HYGELIX product onto the donated endothelial tissue, and then transfer the tissue to the surgeon ready for surgery.

How It Will Work
Next Step

Through extensive collaboration, and with support from the Victoria Government (VMRFF Grant), the HYGELIX Project has accelerated. We are now undertaking pre-clinical in-vivo animal trials.

This is an exciting time for HYGELIX, and we invite investors, interested in working together, to end avoidable corneal endothelial blindness, to contact us for more information.

Diagram showing how HYGELIX is used.

Our USA Team

HYGELIX will:
Increase the uptake and accessibility of EK transplant surgery.
Improve patient visual outcomes and prevent donor rejection and regraft.
Increase global access to corneal tissue and reduce tissue waste.
Reduce avoidable corneal blindness and increase access to surgical services.
Assist in the development of a bioengineered cornea.
Foster global collaboration and partnerships to achieve these goals.
Our Partners
HYGELIX Partners
University of Melbourne

Centre for Eye Research Australia

Eversight

 

Supporters
Victorian Government
Our Team
We only collaborate with the best.
GregQ400x400
Professor Greg Qiao
University of Melbourne Lead
MarkD400x400
Professor Mark Daniell
Centre for Eye Research Australia Lead
MichaelT400x400
Mr Michael Titus
Eversight Lead

PROFESSOR GREG QIAO

University of Melbourne
Lead

PROFESSOR MARK DANIELL

Centre for Eye Research Australia Lead

MR MICHAEL TITUS

Eversight
Lead

University of Melbourne

Professor Greg Qiao

Professor Qiao received his PhD from the University of Queensland in 1996. He joined the University of Melbourne in 1996 and became a full professor in 2009. He was an Australian Research Council’s professorial future fellow (2012-2015) and the chair of Polymer Division of the Royal Australia Chemical Institute (RACI) (2015-2016). He received the Applied Research Award in 2017, Exxon Mobil Award in 2015, RACI’s Polymer Division Citation in both 2011 and 2019, and Freehills Award in 2010. He has published more than 250 journal papers and is a co-inventor of over 20 patents. His key research interests are in polymeric architectures, new activation methods for RAFT, peptide polymers including synthetic polypeptide antibiotics, tissue scaffolds, and gas membranes.

Dr Paul Gurr

Dr Gurr is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Melbourne (2008-present). He received his BSc in 1990 from Monash University, graduating as a synthetic organic chemist, after which he worked as a Research Scientist for the CSIRO, Melbourne from 1990-2000. In 2004 he completed his PhD in polymer chemistry in an industrial project co-funded by DuPont, from the University of Melbourne. His research interests include precise polymer architectures, stimuli-responsive polymers, ultrathin film gas separation membranes and tissue engineered hydrogels.

Centre for Eye Research Australia

 Professor Mark Daniell

Professor Daniell is a senior consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon with a distinguished career in ophthalmology. He Heads the corneal services at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH), overseeing a team of surgeons performing corneal transplantation. He is Founding Chair of the ANZ Corneal Society and Medical Director of Lions Eye Donation Service (the eye bank). Previously he was Head of Ophthalmology at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Prof Daniell is passionate about improving access to tissue and corneal services through the development of bioengineered corneas, and he is the founder of the Keratoconus International Consortium. Previously, he was Chairman of the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia (ORIA), and continues to review grants for National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and ORIA. He has served on the RANZCO Board for 10 years, including as President. Dr Daniell has achieved over $8M in competitive grant funding, from AISRF, ORIA, NHMRC and University of Melbourne interdisciplinary grants. He is current beneficiary of VMRAF and Frontiers of Health MRFF grants for tissue engineered corneal projects. Prof Daniell has published 92 papers in peer reviewed literature and has an H factor of 32.

Dr Karl Brown

Dr Brown is a DHB Research Fellow at the Centre for Eye Research Australia. He has a mixed background in cellular, molecular, and developmental biology, and has a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology, with Honours, from Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. He also holds a Master of Philosophy from the John Curtin School of Medical Research, and The Australian National University, Canberra. He joined the Centre for Eye Research Australia in 2008, where he applied his knowledge of developmental and cell biology to corneal tissue engineering projects. He was awarded his PhD in 2015 for his thesis entitled “Improved corneal tissue-engineering” from Department of Ophthalmology, The University of Melbourne. His current research endeavours to develop tissue-engineered and cell therapy treatments to replace corneal transplants thereby overcoming issues of supply, rejection, and the need for immunosuppression. Finally, he is a member of the management committee for the MRFF funded BIENCO Australian consortium to develop a tissue engineered cornea.

Professor Greg Dusting

Professor Dusting is a pharmacologist, who has discovered and developed 2 drugs: the first a lifesaving heart medicine marketed since 2005, and the second in Phase 2 clinical trial. He trained with Rand then Vane (Nobel Laureate, 1982) and is renowned for fundamental research and drug discovery in cardiovascular disease. More recently he has directed research in tissue engineering, building cardiac tissue, blood vessels and vascularising various tissues. With the team he now focusses on construction of cornea, utilizing stem cells or donor corneal tissues, in order to restore corneal endothelium that is lost in ocular disease or injury. He is a Founding and Honorary Life member of Hypertension Australia, ASCEPT, and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society. He has been awarded several research prizes by the International Society for Hypertension,  the RT Hall Prize in Cardiology (by CSANZ), the Michael Rand Medal (ASCEPT), and is the first non-cardiologist awarded the Heart Foundation Research Medal (2016). He is experienced in the commercialization of discoveries. He acquired these skills with the pharmaceutical industry (Wellcome plc), and this has extended to new drugs that he progressed to Phase 2 trial (ArmaronBio Pty Ltd).

Dr Heather Machin

Dr Machin is an ophthalmic nurse. She is the Senior Project Manager and Lions Fellow to CERA’s Lions Eye Donation Service, Biobank and Corneal Research Units. With a national and global profile in the eye care and eye tissue fields she has led sector wide reform, including the development of The Barcelona Principles – an ethical framework. She has worked in over 30 countries, previously with ORBIS International’s Flying Eye Hospital and as consultant to Fred Hollows Foundation NZ. She is Project Officer to the Eye Bank Association of Australia and New Zealand; Chair to the Global Alliance of Eye Bank Associations; Representative to the Lions Clubs International Eye Bank Working Group; Member of the Australian Organ and Tissue Authorities Eye and Tissue Advisory Committee; and a co-developer of the WHO’s Global Action Framework for Tissue in Transplantation. She holds a PhD (on corneal exportation), an MBA, a Ba.Nursing, a Grad.Cert in Professional Communications, and is a certified  PRINCE 2 Project specialist. She is passionate about improving donor awareness, and the global ethical and equitable access to tissues for transplantation, training and research.

Professor Jean-Pierre Scheerlinck

Professor Scheerlinck is an Honorary Professor in Animal Biotechnology, at the Melbourne School of Veterinary Science, The University on Melbourne. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Zoology) degree with Honours, a Diploma of Education, a Master of Science in Biotechnology, and a PhD in Immunology from the Free University of Brussels (VUB). Subsequently he worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the International Livestock Research Institute (Nairobi), the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. In 1996 he became project leader in the CRC for Vaccine Technology unit at CSIRO Animal Health and completed an MBA in Technology Management later becoming a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. In 2000, he joined the Faculty through the Centre for Animal Biotechnology, becoming the Director of the Centre in 2006. His area of research covers animal models for human diseases including a sheep model for vaccine development, wound healing and artificial corneas. 

Dr Gink Yang

Dr Yang is Research Fellow at CERA and leads the laboratory testing of the Hygelix products in cells and animals. With a background in biomaterial development, tissue repair and stem cell biology, Dr Yang received his PhD on stem cell development, regeneration, and cancer in 2020. During his PhD candidature, Dr Yang took a stint as Biomaterials Specialist at Tekcyte, a world leader in the development of advanced coatings for biomedical applications. With an interest in pharmaceutical testing and validation, Dr Yang was trained under GMP clean room conditions and worked on several pre-clinical studies using various animal models.

Eversight

  

Mr Michael Titus

Mr Titus is the Vice President of Clinical Operations at Eversight. He has contributed to several innovations in eye banking. He led developments in DSAEK preparation that has increased success rates, reduced endothelial damage and improved reliability. He was directly involved in the development of the eye bank DMEK procedures in place at both Eversight and Saving Sight in the USA. He has published and presented on these techniques at conferences including the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) annual meeting and American Academy of Ophthalmology. While at Saving Sight, Mr. Titus developed a novel service infrastructure to provide patients with autologous serum eye drops, trademarked Vital Tears, along with all clinical processes and procedures. He also led the regulatory strategy creating a strong commercial position for Vital Tears while maintaining minimal costs. Vital Tears now operates across the entire continental US. Mr. Titus is an active member of EBAA, currently serving on the Accreditation Board.

Dr Onkar Sawant

Dr Sawant, B.Pharm, Ph.D has been with Eversight since June 2019 and oversees the organization’s research and innovations efforts, collaborating with academic and industry scientists to accelerate discoveries and advance clinical practices to prevent vision loss. Prior to joining Eversight, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in ophthalmic research at the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute. Dr. Sawant holds a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Mumbai University, and a doctorate in biomedical sciences and a master’s degree in biotechnology business from Texas A&M University. In 2018, Dr. Sawant was named an Emerging Vision Scientist by the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research. He has authored more than 20 peer-reviewed original research articles including high-impact publications in The FASEB Journal, The Ocular Surface Journal, Cornea and Cell Reports. He has extensive experience in the fields of ophthalmic research, pharmacology, toxicology and genetics.

Thank you

We recognise and thank the donors and their families across Australia and beyond, for whom our work, and sight restoring transplantations, would not be possible.

How to partner with us

If you would like to partner with us and support our work, we would love to hear from you.