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Funding boost for pioneering eye genetics research

Medical research into eye genetics at Oxford Brookes University has received a funding pledge of £2 million from Baillie Gifford, an international investment business. The gift supports the work of Professor Nicola Ragge who has spearheaded a national eye genetics service, leading world-leading research into eye development problems in children.

Specialising in cases where babies are born with missing eyes (anophthalmia), or very small eyes (microphthalmia), Professor Ragge leads a research team which is investigating the genetic codes of this complex organ.

Our research is moving forward fast and as we discover more about genetic networks of the eye we can diagnose problems quickly, giving families the right advice and support and potentially enabling treatments to start sooner. This can be life-changing for babies and their families.

Professor Nicola Ragge, Oxford Brookes University

These conditions are estimated to affect up to 1 in 3,500 people and account for around a quarter of childhood blindness worldwide.

Using advanced genetic tools, the researchers are developing an intricate understanding of the eye, looking at techniques to speed up the diagnosis of eye development problems and treatments for anomalies.

Research can bring life-changing outcomes

Professor Ragge, the Baillie Gifford Chair of Developmental Eye Genetics, worked as a consultant eye surgeon before moving into research and has worked with many families across the UK who have had babies born with anophthalmia, microphthalmia, or coloboma – a condition which affects the development of one or more layers in the eye, leading to a keyhole shaped iris, or a missing part of the retina.

Professor Ragge said: “There is so much that we are still to discover about the eye and its intricate genetic puzzle. Our research is moving forward fast and as we discover more about genetic networks of the eye we can diagnose problems quickly, giving families the right advice and support and potentially enabling treatments to start sooner. This can be life-changing for babies and their families.

“We are very grateful to Baillie Gifford for their support with this generous gift, which secures our future research and drives us further towards that goal.”

Research has real-world impact on people’s lives

Nick Thomas, partner of Baillie Gifford & Co, said: “We have supported Professor Ragge and her team for several years now, as part of our programme of academic research sponsorship. It has been a pleasure to be involved with her ground-breaking, collaborative work and to learn from her talented group of colleagues. The progress they are making continues to inspire us.”

Professor Alistair Fitt, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University said, “This generous donation from Baillie Gifford is testament to the globally recognised research centre that Professor Ragge and her team have built at Oxford Brookes. It supports our researchers to make a real-world impact on the lives of children with genetic eye conditions – work that could be transformative for their futures, and for their families. I’m delighted that Baillie Gifford is continuing its collaboration with us.”

The gift builds on an existing relationship with Baillie Gifford, which has been supporting Professor Ragge’s research at Oxford Brookes University for the last seven years.

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