Philanthropy will promote research into eye health

09 December 2013

An exciting new research and teaching centre to promote eye health in New Zealand was launched at the University of Auckland recently.

The Buchanan Ocular Therapeutics Unit will encompass ophthalmology, optometry and vision science research and education.

It was established with the single, largest, individual, philanthropic donation made to the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences to date; $2.4 million from Buchanan Charitable Trust founders, Drs Trevor and Caroline Gray.

Head of the University’s Ophthalmology Department and Director of the New Zealand National Eye Centre, Professor Charles McGhee said the donation came at a time when academic ophthalmology was blossoming, both in Auckland and throughout New Zealand, and the donation came at a time that would enable the unit to make major forward strides.

Pictured at the launch of the BOTU are the Dean, Dr Caroline Gray, Dr Trevor Gray, Dr Ilva Rupenthal, Professor Charles McGhee and our Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon

“This generosity of spirit will enable the Department of Ophthalmology to pursue research that will lead to advances in ocular therapeutics from the laboratories of our department to the patients’ bedside,” he said at the launch. “Within the next decade, I’m sure we will see these drugs in use within the community.  This is only possible due to the outstanding philanthropy of Drs Trevor and Caroline Gray and the support of the University of Auckland.”

This funding will enable the Buchanan Ocular Therapeutic Unit to employ a director/senior lecturer and other support staff, as well as attract doctoral and post-doctoral researchers.

Professor McGhee announced that the new Unit’s first director will be the department’s newly appointed Senior Lecturer, Dr Ilva Rupenthal, who was recently successful in gaining a $500,000 Health Research Council grant for research into ‘Stimuli-responsive ocular implants’.

“Ilva is an outstanding young pharmacist and visual scientist,” he said. ”She’s already busily attracting post-docs and PhD students and, like other members of the team, gaining valuable, additional, research dollars.”

Trustee, Dr Trevor Gray said the project, “that has so much potential, could never have happened without the strong leadership and previous track record of Professors Charles McGhee, Helen Danesh-Meyer and Colin Green, and their energetic team of over-achievers in the ophthalmology department.”

“The Unit was certainly designed to take ocular related therapeutic science and research all the way from the laboratory setting into clinical use, and also to provide an important teaching platform and education for pre and post-graduate ophthalmology and optometry students in ocular pharmacology and therapeutics,” he said.

Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Professor John Fraser said at the launch, that the University was committed to making the Unit work.  “More and more, philanthropy is what drives the future for us.  The connection between the university, the community and philanthropists is becoming more and more important.”

University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon said that Charles McGhee and his team had done a fantastic job of building what was now clearly an international centre of research teaching and clinical excellence. 

“They have done it through extraordinary hard work, and they have brought in a variety of resources to support that process, but could not have done it at all without the support of many philanthropists who have seen that this programme has something worthy of investing in.”


For more information contact:

Suzi PhillipsMedia Relations Advisor
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
The University of Auckland
Phone +64 9 923 7383 or Mob 021416396