School of Medicine

Buchanan Ocular Therapeutics Unit (BOTU)


The Buchanan Ocular Therapeutics Unit (BOTU) conducts scientific research into new treatments for eye diseases (ocular therapeutics) and aims to translate these into the clinical setting. The types of treatments we investigate can be pharmaceutical, cell or technology-based. We also teach and educate undergraduate and postgraduate students to foster the next generation of ophthalmologists, optometrists, and vision scientists. Through our work we promote professional relationships between ophthalmology and optometry.

BOTU was established with a generous philanthropic donation from the Buchanan Charitable Foundation and ongoing support from the University of Auckland. The goal is to become a fully self-sufficient unit, creating a long-term environment for multidisciplinary research and teaching in the area of ocular therapeutics.

Our research areas focus on developing drug-releasing implants for the eye and evaluating new treatments for sight-threatening diseases.

Our teaching has a focus on the use of ocular drugs to combat common eye diseases and we have significant input into undergraduate medical, optometry and pharmacy courses. We also offer short term research projects for undergraduates to enable a better understanding of ocular therapeutics.

Associate Professor Ilva Rupenthal is the inaugural Director of the Buchanan Ocular Therapeutics Unit. As a pharmaceutical scientist working alongside clinician-researchers she is in a unique position to translate cutting-edge eye research from bench to bedside.

Key Outputs

BOTU Ocular Therapeutics Conference

BOTU's second Ocular Therapeutics Conference a great success

Organised by Professor Charles McGhee, Associate Professor Ilva Rupenthal and Dr Trevor Gray, this not-for-profit professional education meeting took place on 21st May 2017 at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre in Auckland. Aimed at optometrists, ophthalmologists, pharmacists, ophthalmic nurses as well as senior optometry and ophthalmology trainees, the conference attracted over 200 attendees with talks covering a wide mix range of basic research and applied clinical topics.

For further information on the speakers and the topics covered visit the conference website.


Ilva Rupenthal  HRC Celebrating Research Excellence Award 2016

BOTU Director receives prestigious award

In 2016, Associate Professor Ilva Rupenthal received the Health Research Council (HRC) Celebrating Research Excellence Award for her outstanding contribution to health research excellence as an emerging researcher at the University of Auckland. This award is part of HRC’s 25-year anniversary celebrations and recognizes the excellent progression in her research career. Ilva already received two HRC grants in the past – an Emerging Researcher First Grant in 2012 followed by the HRC’s prestigious $500,000 Sir Charles Hercus Fellowship in 2013.

Read the news article on the University website.

BOTU Velocity 2015

BOTU team wins Entrepreneurship Challenges

In 2015, Yeri Kim, Sanjay Marasini, Frazer Coutinho and Professor Colin Green placed third in the $100k Entrepreneurship Challenge with EyeLine, a product that provides rapid on-site detection of patients at risk of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma. Dr Ilva Rupenthal and her team also won the 2014 Ideas Challenge Prize for C-Plant, a conducting polymer-based ocular implant, as well as the 2012 Ideas Challenge UniServices Prize for Invitrajet, a light-activated ocular implant.

For further information on these exciting ideas visit the BOTU research projects page.


Current Research and Team Members

A variety of research projects are conducted by staff and students from BOTU.

BOTU Team Members BOTU Team Members (L to R): Odunayo Mugisho, Yosra Agban, Di Huang, Associate Professor Ilva Rupenthal, Dr Erica Chen, Frazer Coutinho, Priyanka Agarwal, Dr Sachin Thakur

Our Research Areas

Stimuli-responsive eye implants

We are investigating implants for the eye that offer sustained release of a drug over time, while also allowing for release of extra ‘top-up’ doses triggered by an external stimulus, such as a small electrical signal or light.

Funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the Buchanan Charitable Foundation.

New drug treatments for sight-threatening diseases

We aim to develop new drug-based treatments for sight-threatening diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, by investigating the roles of a family of proteins called gap junctions.

Funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the Auckland Medical Research Foundation, the Save Sight Society, and the Buchanan Charitable Foundation.

Our Team