Scientists awarded top prize after work with contact lenses

Scientists awarded top prize after work with contact lenses

By Adrian Galbreth

Two scientists who have been involved with research into the structure of polymer chains, which may lead to the development of longer-wear contact lenses, have been recognised for their work with Australia's top science prize.

The Prime Minister's Prize for Science, which was announced in Australia's Parliament House and carries a cash prize of AU$300,000, was awarded to Professor Ezio Rizzardo and Professor David Solomon of the University of Melbourne.

Professor Rizzardo, 67, said he was honoured to share the prize with his colleague.

The pair are no strangers to inventing impressive products as more than 60 companies, including IBM, 3M, Dulux and L'Oreal have licensed their creations in the past.

Their work with polymers is also set to benefit contact lens wearers as they have created a product that allows the lens to transmit oxygen and water to keep the eye healthy while remaining strong so they can be worn for a long time.

Professor Rizzardo said the new lenses are "very close to coming on the market".

Director of the Materials Research laboratory at the University of California, Craig Hawker, said the pair's discoveries had rewritten the book on polymer synthesis.

"Their creativity reaches out far beyond the stellar science. I see no limits to what can come from this work and am very proud to be able to say that it is homegrown Australian science through and through."

It was recently revealed that an emerging pharmaceutical platform which is used in treating a number of diseases may produce "unintended and undesirable effects" on eye function,

Research from the University of Kentucky found that short-interfering RNA (siRNA) technology may have an adverse effect on patients' eyes.

Dr Jayakrishna Ambati, professor of physiology, and professor and vice chair of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the university, said: "We now show a new undesirable effect of siRNAs that are 21 nucleotides or longer in length: these siRNAs, regardless of their sequence or target, can cause retinal toxicity."

by Adrian Galbreth

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