Researcher

Professor Mark Duncan Willcox

My Expertise

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

contact lenses

medical devices

antimicrobial surfaces

Keywords

Fields of Research (FoR)

Optometry and Ophthalmology, Medical Microbiology, Immunology, Proteomics and Intermolecular Interactions (excl. Medical Proteomics), Medical Biochemistry: Proteins and Peptides (incl. Medical Proteomics)

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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

2008     Fellow of the British Contact Lens Association (FBCLA)

2009     Vice Chancellors Award for Teaching Excellence - Postgraduate Supervision

2010     Member of Australian Society for Microbiology

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

2011     Fellow of the American Association of Optometry (FAAO)

2012     Australia-India Senior Visiting Fellowship from Australian Academy of Science

2012     Member of the American Association of Optometry Presidents Circle

2013     Member of Scientific Advisory Board of TFOS

2013     Fellow of the Australian Society for Microbiology

2013     Research Director, School of Optometry and Vision Science, UNSW

2013     Member of Board of Directors and Treasurer, Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society

2014     Member of Scientific Advisory Board, Ophtecs, Japan

2014     Associate Dean Research Training, Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales

2015     Elected as ARVO Silver Fellow

2015     DSc, UNSW 

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

2019     School of Optometry and Vision Science Research Award

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.

2020     Vision Care Section Awards Committee Chair, American Public Health Association. 2020 VCS Outstanding Scientific Paper/Project Award for published papers related to the COVID-19 pandemic: The Ocular Surface, Coronaviruses and COVID-19 and The COVID-19 pandemic: Important considerations for contact lens practitioners.

2020     Research Supervisor Award. The Arc Postgraduate Council, UNSW.

2020     Faculty of Science Research Excellence Award

2020     Elected ARVO Gold Fellowship

2021     Adjunct Professorship awarded by University of Waterloo, Canada


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 

Pathogenic Traits of S.aureus Associated with Keratitis

Novel antimicrobial strategies for implantable and non-implantable devices

Nanodiagnosis of Eye Infections

Investigation on the association between the Acanthamoeba genotypes and severity of the corneal infection

Design, synthesis and testing of novel RNA polymerase inhibitors, as anti-bacterial agents

Development of Biologically Responsive Biomaterials Against Bacterial Colonisation

In vivo labelling and bioimaging of the tear film phospholipids using silicon quantum dots

Development of contact lenses that can deliver effective doses of atropine to the eye to control the development of myopia

Antimicrobial coatings and biomaterials

Efficacy of disinfectants and novel antimicrobials against coronaviruses

Engineering peptides for antimicrobial applications

Ameliorative effect of Sitagliptin and Celery Seeds extract (Ajwain) in Alloxan induced diabetic rats

 


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

Tsz Tin Yu

Madeeha Afzal

Sudip Chakraborty

Hari Kumar Peguda

Binod Rayamajhee

Robert Rourke

Manjulatha Sara

Shyam Kumar Mishra Baishnab

Sidra Sarwat

Md Abdullah Aziz

Sandy Yang

Mst Umme Laila Urmi

George Enninful

Samea Khan


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

+61-2-9065 5394
+61 2 9313 6243