Researcher

Professor Mark Duncan Willcox

Biography

About me:
My laboratory focuses on contact lens research, specifically understanding the etiology 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 development of novel antimicrobial surfaces. This research involves the study of microbial pathogenesis, and mammalian tissue responses to microbes and biomaterials. We...view more

About me:
My laboratory focuses on contact lens research, specifically understanding the etiology 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 development of novel antimicrobial surfaces. 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 lead to the publication of 12 patents and over 350 peer reviewed papers.

Our currently funded projects include four Government grants (NHMRC and ARC) investigating antimicrobial biomaterials and novel antimicrobials.

Education
PhD in Medical Microbiology/Dentistry (University of Manchester, 1987)
BSc Hons in Applied Biology (University of the West of England, 1983)

RESEARCH
My Research Goals:

  • 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 hosts one visiting scientists (from University of Waterloo, Canada), four post-doctoral researchers and six graduate students, working on projects ranging from:

  • Development of antimicrobial contact lenses
  • Research and development of antimicrobial contact lens cases
  • Development of novel peptide mimics for the disruption of chemical communication in bacteria
  • Antimicrobial biomaterials to reduce implant-related bacterial infections
  • Research into antimicrobial and tissue integrative catheters
  • Effect of contact lens material on the phagocytic activity of leukocytes
  • The microbiome of contact lens cases
  • Development of models of contact lens-related keratitis
  • Mechanisms involved in contact lens-related discomfort
  • The effect of lipid eye drops and sprays on contact lens-related discomfort
  • The role of lymphocytes in dry-eye disease

Current Student Projects (PhD and Honours)

  • Relationship between keratoconus and the tear film
  • Contact lens case hygiene
  • The cationic antimicrobial peptide melimine and control of bacterial colonisation of surfaces
  • Methods for reducing microbially-driven contact lens-related adverse events
  • Mechanisms involved in microbial keratitis
  • Tear film and contact lens discomfort
TEACHING & OUTREACH
Courses I teach
VISN2231: Introduction to ocular disease (http://www.handbook.unsw.edu.au/undergraduate/courses/2014/VISN2231.html)
 
Professional affiliations and service positions
Director of Research at the School of Optometry and Vision Science
Immediate Past President of the International Society for Contact Lens Research
Member of the Scientific Advisory Board - Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society
Member of the Scientific Advisory Board – Ophtecs Corporation
Member of Scientific Advisory Board, Minomic International Pty Ltd
Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry
Fellow of the British Contact Lens Association
Fellow of the Australian Society for Microbiology
 
AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS
  • Outstanding Achievement, Cornea and Contact Lens Research Unit, School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of New South Wales, 1999
  • Distinguished Research on Cornea and Contact Lens, University of Houston College of Optometry, Houston, USA, 2006
  • Vice Chancellors Award for Teaching Excellence - Postgraduate Supervision, 2009
  • Optometry Giving Sight, Major Contributor Award, 2010
  • British Contact Lens Association Medal recipient, 2011
  • Max Schapero Award recipient, American Academy of Optometry, 2011
  • Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia,  Distinguished Service Award for 2011
  • Recipient of Australia-India Senior Visiting Fellowship from Australian Academy of Science

My Expertise

occular microbiology, ocular inflammation & infection, bio-prospecting

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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