Lions Eye Institute

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Lions Eye Institute
Founder(s) Lions Club of Australia
Established 1983; 34 years ago (1983)
Mission Medical research
Focus Eye disease
Chairman Stephen Pearce
Managing Director David Mackey
Faculty University of Western Australia
Location Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

The Lions Eye Institute (LEI) is an Australian medical research institute with a focus on scientific discovery and techniques used to reduce suffering from blinding eye conditions. Established in 1983 through the support of the Lions Club of Australia, the Institute is affiliated with the University of Western Australia and is located in the Perth suburb of Nedlands, Western Australia.

Professor David Mackey has been the Managing Director since 2009.[1]


In 1975 the Lions Save-Sight Foundation (LSSF) established the Lions Chair in Ophthalmology at the University of Western Australia. Professor Ian Constable AO was appointed to this position and subsequently established the Lions Eye Institute in 1983.

The LEI employs scientists, clinicians and support staff to conduct scientific research into blindness and incorporates one of Australia’s largest ophthalmic practices. The Institute also houses a Laser Vision Centre – Western Australia’s refractive surgery centre, the Lions Eye Bank – responsible for the collecting, processing and distribution of corneal and scleral tissue throughout Western Australia, Lions Optics and the LSSF.

The Institute actively participates in numerous clinical trials which enable scientists,ophthalmologists and pharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments for eye diseases.

The institute's funding comes from clinic operations, grants from organisations such as the National Health and Medical Research Council, individual benefactors and the LSSF.[2]


Besides providing regular clinical services, the institute provides: LASIK surgery at the Lions Laser Vision Center; cataract micro-surgery and lens implantation; plastic surgery of the eyelids including blepharoplasty, ptosis repairs, pterygia, conjunctival grafts and corneal grafts at the Day Surgery Center; and full Optometric Service at Lions Optics. The Lions Eye Bank is responsible for collecting, processing and distributing corneal and scleral tissue throughout Western Australia. To date it has provided tissue for over 3,000 corneal transplants.[3]

Research activities[edit]

LEI's laboratory-based and clinical research teams investigate all major untreated causes of blindness including cataracts, diabetes related eye disease, glaucoma, retinal degenerations, corneal, and immune-based diseases. More than 70 scientists at LEI use a range of technologies to develop treatments for blinding diseases, including gene therapy and telemedicine. LEI has several major international collaborations and partnerships with a wide range of Australian and international institutions, and collaborates with industry in joint research and development projects. Among the international institutions that the LEI has been actively collaborating with are American Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Shanghai University, Swedish University of Agricultural Science, University of Missouri and the National Eye Institute (USA).

Research done by the Lions Eye Institute's research teams has led to the development of the first retinal vein bypass treatment for retinal vein blockages, and the development of the first transgenic mouse model for Age-Related Macular Degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in those aged over 55. With this model, they expect research to accelerate into the development of ARMD that may lead to an effective treatment of this disease. At LEI, the world’s first artificial cornea was developed and implanted into a human eye. This artificial cornea was named AlphaCor, and the institute currently owns its patent rights.[4]


  • Professor Ian Constable AO – Sub-specialties: Vitreoretinal Surgery, Retinal Vascular Disease, Diabetic Retinopathy, Macular Degeneration. Constable is the Advisory Committee Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology which serves 56 per cent of the world population and a greater percentage of the world blind.
  • Professor Graham Barrett – Sub-specialties: Cataract surgery, keratorefractive surgery, corneal and anterior segment disorders. Barrett is the first Australian ophthalmologist to win, in one year, the prestigious Binkhorst, Ridley, Susruta and Choyce Awards.
  • Professor Geoffrey Crawford – Sub-specialties: Corneal disorders and surgery, Keratorefractive Disorders, Ocular Plastic, Orbital Surgery. Crawford was instrumental in the development of the Alphacor and the first surgeon to perform LASIK in Western Australia.
  • Professor David Mackey – Sub-specialties: Hereditary and genetic eye diseases. Mackey sees patients for second opinions on rare genetic eye diseases and more common genetic eye diseases involving new genetic research.
  • Professor Ian McAllister – Sub-specialties: Vitreoretinal Surgery, Retinal Vascular Disease, Diabetic Retinopathy, Macular Degeneration, Ocular Trauma. McAllister has pioneered a novel surgical bypass technique for treatment of retinal vascular occlusive disease.
  • Professor William Morgan – Sub-specialties: Glaucoma. Morgan is establishing Western Australia's first population health data base in glaucoma.
  • Associate Professor Mei-Ling Tay Kearney – Sub-specialties: Opportunistic infections of the eye, Uveitis and Inflammatory disorders of the eye. Kearney delivers workplace safety education to companies in north-west Western Australia.
  • Associate Professor Steven Wiffen – Sub-specialties: Corneal surface disorders, Corneal surgery, Anterior Segment disorders and surgery, Keratorefractive surgery. Wiffen is the Chair for Eyebanks Australia and New Zealand.
  • Dr Antonio Giubilato – Sub-specialty: Glaucoma. Giubilato is the coordinator for Medical Student Teaching for Ophthalmology in Western Australia.
  • Dr Tim Isaacs – Sub specialties: Vitreoretinal Specialist, Surgery, Diabetic Retinopathy, Macular Degeneration, Retinal Vascular Disease. Isaacs has studied active Chlamydia infection rates in aboriginal children in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.
  • Dr Adam Gadatsy – Sub specialties: Oculoplastic and cosmetic eye surgery. Gadatsy is currently researching novel methods of eyelid reconstruction and tear drainage following chemotherapy for breast cancer.
  • Dr Jean-Louis deSousa – Sub specialties: Oculoplastics, orbital and lacrimal surgery, cosmetic eyelid surgery. deSousa is the WA representative for continuing professional development and a basic sciences examiner for RANZCO.
  • Dr Fred Chen – Sub specialties: Vitreoretinal Surgery, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy. Chen is currently continuing his research interest in stem cells and other novel treatments for the various types of macular degeneration at the Lions Eye Institute..

Research groups[edit]

  • Molecular ophthalmology – Director: Professor E. Piroska Rakoczy. Rakoczy was the first in Australia to apply molecular biological techniques in ophthalmic research. Prof. Rakoczy's group has developed gene therapy treatments for reversal of blinding retinal dystrophy in Briard dogs – the first large animal genetic blindness to be cured, and the first transgenic mouse model for ARMD.
  • Physiology and pharmacology – Director: Professor Dao-Yi Yu. Yu heads up a major NHMRC Centre Grant dedicated to retinal physiology, mechanisms of disease and glaucoma. His research team has created the world’s first dissoluble glaucoma tube for microsurgery.
  • Experimental immunology program – Director: Dr Mariapia Degli-Esposti. Degli-Esposti's research aims to define interactions that occur between viral pathogens and host immune effectors to determine how these interactions affect anti-viral immunity. Degli-Esposti recently[when?] published a definitive review of the interactions between immune cells in the prestigious Nature Reviews Immunology magazine.
  • Genetics/Population Health – Director: Professor David Mackey. Mackey is the world's leading researcher[citation needed] in glaucoma genetics. His other major areas of interest include optic atrophy, congenital cataract, retinal detachment, strabismus and ptosis
  • Clinical research – The Lions Eye Institute is acknowledged as a core academic centre suitable for substantial participation in global clinical trials of new pharmaceutical therapies and surgical procedures not yet approved by governments.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Professor David A Mackey". Our people. Lions Eye Institute. 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2016. 
  2. ^ LEI 2011 Annual Report
  3. ^ "Services at the LEI". Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  4. ^ C R Hicks; G J Crawford; X Lou; D T Tan; G R Snibson; G Sutton; N Downie; L Werner; T V Chirila; I J Constable (November 2003). "Corneal replacement using a synthetic hydrogel cornea, AlphaCor™: device, preliminary outcomes and complications" (PDF). Eye. doi:10.1038/sj.eye.6700333.