Researcher

Professor Mark Duncan Willcox

My Expertise

ocular microbiology,
ocular inflammation & infection,
bio-prospecting,
novel antimicrobials,
disinfectants

contact lenses

medical devices

antimicrobial surfaces

Keywords

Field of Research (FoR)

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Biography

I am a medical microbiologist who has worked for many years in the area of infections of medical devices. My laboratory focuses on development of novel antimicrobials that have applications as antibiotics and disinfectants. We also develop new antimicrobial coatings that can be used for a variety of purposes, including coating of medical devices to reduce associated infections. We have taken several of these through to pre-clinical testing,...view more

I am a medical microbiologist who has worked for many years in the area of infections of medical devices. My laboratory focuses on development of novel antimicrobials that have applications as antibiotics and disinfectants. We also develop new antimicrobial coatings that can be used for a variety of purposes, including coating of medical devices to reduce associated infections. We have taken several of these through to pre-clinical testing, and antimicrobial contact lenses through to Phase III clinical trials. Within the area of contact lens research, we focus on understanding the aetiology of adverse events and comfort during contact lens wear. Our research includes adhesion and biofilm formation of ocular pathogenic microbes (most notably Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus). This research involves the study of microbial pathogenesis, and mammalian tissue responses to microbes and biomaterials. We have established several animal and cell-based models for studying contact lens adverse events and biomaterial infections. Our research has also encompassed proteomic and lipidomic studies of the tear film and its interaction with contact lenses. We have applied new techniques that allow the quantification individual proteins and lipids that adsorb onto contact lenses, or are biomarkers for changes to the ocular surface. This allows researchers, for the first time, to be able to assess the contribution of particular proteins or lipids to the production of adverse responses during lens wear. We have also investigated the use of tears as the source of biomarkers for diabetes, breast and prostate cancer. These research studies have led to the publication of 15 patents and over 450 peer reviewed papers.

 

Our currently funded projects include four Government grants (NHMRC and ARC) investigating antimicrobial biomaterials and novel antimicrobials. We work closely with industry to provide potential new products, testing facilities, clinical trials and laboratory and clinical training.

 

Education

 

DSc in ocular surface research (University of New South Wales, 2015)

PhD in Medical Microbiology/Dentistry (University of Manchester, 1987)

BSc Hons in Applied Biology (University of the West of England, 1983)


My Grants

2020-2024: NHMRC Ideas grant "Tackling Hospital Acquired Infections with Peptide Mimics" APP1183597. M Willcox, N Kumar, C Boyer, E Wong, D McKenzie, N Suchowerska, K Vickery, R Chen

2018-2021: ARC Discovery grant "New scaffolds for antimicrobial discovery. DP180100845. N Kumar, D Black, M Willcox

2019-2022: ARC Discovery grant "Do sex steroids regulate tear lipid production in human meibomian glands? DP190103045. B 2021    Golebiowski, F Stapleton, M Madigan, M Willcox, D Sullivan


My Qualifications

DSc in ocular surface research (University of New South Wales, 2015)

PhD in Medical Microbiology/Dentistry (University of Manchester, 1987)

BSc Hons in Applied Biology (University of the West of England, 1983)


My Awards

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS AND SERVICE POSITIONS
Director of Research at the School of Optometry and Vision Science
Past President of the International Society for Contact Lens Research
Treasurer - Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society
Member of the Scientific Advisory Board – Ophtecs Corporation
Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry
Fellow of the British Contact Lens Association
Fellow of the Australian Society for Microbiology
Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS
1993     Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Dental Research, Westmead Hospital, Australia
1999    Outstanding Achievement, Cornea and Contact Lens Research Unit, School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of New South Wales
2006    Distinguished Research on Cornea and Contact Lens, University of Houston College of Optometry, Houston, USA
2009        Vice Chancellors Award for Teaching Excellence - Postgraduate Supervision
2010        Major Contributor Award, Optometry Giving Sight
2011        British Contact Lens Association Medal recipient
2011        Max Schapero Award recipient, American Academy of Optometry
2011         Distinguished Service Award, Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia
2012        Australia-India Senior Visiting Fellowship from Australian Academy of Science
2012        Member of the American Association of Optometry Presidents Circle
2014-2017    Associate Dean Research Training, Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales
2016        Member of the Presbyopia Advisory Board, Allergan inc.
2016    J Lloyd Hewett Award for the most meritorious paper published by Clin Exp Optom.
2017    BCLA Dallos Award for project entitled “The eyelid and its role in contact lens discomfort.” 
2017        H Barry Collin Medal – Optometry Australia
2020    Korb Award for Excellence - American Optometric Association Contact Lens Cornea Section
2020    NHMRC Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award’ for the highest scoring Ideas grant.


My Research Activities

My Research Goals:

 

Design of novel antimicrobials for use as antibiotics and disinfectants

Design and testing of novel antimicrobial surfaces for medical devices, from laboratory through pre-clinical to clinical testing

Discovery of biomarkers of human disease from tears

Understanding changes to tears during contact lens wear and impact of ocular health and comfort

Assessing microbial and mammalian responses during keratitis

 

Research in Detail

My group currently consists of seven post-doctoral researchers and ten graduate students, working on projects ranging from:

 

Development of antimicrobial surfaces for medical devices 

Research, development and clinical trials of contact lenses and lens cases

The microbiome of the ocular surface

Development of new therapies for dry eye and contact lens discomfort

Testing of new disinfecting agents

 

Current Student Projects 

Development of peptide mimics as antimicrobial surface coatings

RNA-seq analysis of the ocular surface 

Development quantum dots to analyse the tear film

Staphylococcus aureus antibiotic resistance – phenotypic and genotypic analyses

Pseudomonas aeruginosa antibiotic resistance – phenotypic and genotypic analyses

New ways of visualising Acanthamoeba sp.

Development of new antibiotics


My Research Supervision


Supervision keywords


Areas of supervision

Development of peptide mimics as antimicrobial surface coatings

RNA-seq analysis of the ocular surface 

Development quantum dots to analyse the tear film

Staphylococcus aureus antibiotic resistance – phenotypic and genotypic analyses

Pseudomonas aeruginosa antibiotic resistance – phenotypic and genotypic analyses

New ways of visualising Acanthamoeba sp.

Development of new antibiotics


Currently supervising

Ms Madeeha Afzal

Mr Shyam Kumar Mishra Baishnab

Mr Hari Kumar Peguda

Ms Manjulatha Sara

Ms Mahjabeen Khan - co-supervisor

Mr Binod Rayamajhee - co-supervisor

Ms Sidra Sarwat - co-supervisor

Ms Heba Hani O Alenezi - co-supervisor

Mr Tsz Tin Yu - co-supervisor - School of Chemistry


My Teaching

Courses I teach

OPTM8514_Optometry Research Project

https://www.handbook.unsw.edu.au/postgraduate/courses/2020/OPTM8514

OPTM7107_Ocular Therapy 1

https://www.handbook.unsw.edu.au/postgraduate/courses/2020/OPTM7107

OPTM3105_Disease Processes of the Eye 1

https://www.handbook.unsw.edu.au/undergraduate/courses/2020/OPTM3105

I also teach in the Australian College of Optometrist’s Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics

https://www.aco.org.au/certificate-in-ocular-therapeutics/

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Location

School of Optometry and Vision Science
Room 3.004
Rupert Myers Building
UNSW
NSW 2052

Contact

+61 2 9385 4164
+61 2 9313 6243