Addressing the global challenge of corneal blindness

BIENCO brings Australia’s leading minds in corneal bioengineering together to address the global challenge of corneal blindness, the third most common cause of blindness globally.

The fight against corneal blindness is a significant global challenge. Impacting all age groups, corneal disease and injury represent the third most common cause of blindness affecting approximately 5 million people worldwide, with a further 23 million affected by corneal blindness in one eye. Corneal transplantation, which relies upon human donor corneal tissue, remains the current standard of care. An acute global shortage of donor corneal tissue however, continues to prevent access to treatment with a growing global wait list of over 12.5 million people and less than 2% of people receiving this life changing transplant.


BIENCO includes Australia’s leaders in corneal bioengineering and is recognised for its potential to deliver sustainable health systems, having been awarded one of ten Medical Research Future Fund Grants under the Australian Government Frontier Health and Medical Research Initiative.

BIENCO will develop individually tailored, superior corneas that are cost effective and capable of addressing global blindness by improving access to corneal grafts with further potential to prevent corneal blindness through improved early intervention and complementary treatments to hasten recovery from treatments such as laser eye surgery.

BIENCO will bioengineer a total cornea as well as partial thickness grafts for transplant reducing the amount of donor tissue required, significantly improving cost effectiveness and sustainability of corneal treatments in Australia and increasing access to vision restoring corneal replacement surgery across the globe.

Uniting leading clinicians, scientists and experts in Good Manufacturing Practice.

Our Team

BIENCO is steered by a team of experienced leader’s representative of the six Consortium partners, with significant medical, scientific and biological manufacturing expertise.

BIENCO’s Leadership Team build capacity and expertise by co-opting specialist advisors from our professional networks to contribute to our five year commercialisation roadmap.

BIENCO’s senior researchers and scientists are organised into a suite of collaborative and dynamic teams. BIENCO’s Management Committee, oversees and guides the scientific program and includes the Research Leads from all partner institutions representing a titanic cross agency national collaboration. BIENCO has seven Project Teams working in concert across the various bio-corneal components and three Specialist Working Groups focussed to assure product optimisation, integration and quality.

The Steering Committee (Committee) governs the Consortium and steers the projects to successful outcomes to optimise cross project value. Committee members guide each institution to support their project and serve as a resource for the project teams clearing obstacles from the pathway to success.

Prof. Gerard Sutton (Chair)

Project Lead, Professor Sutton (University of Sydney) is a highly experienced, innovative, celebrated and internationally recognised ophthalmic surgeon. He is also an author, researcher seasoned academic, the Chief Medical Officer of iFix Medical and Medical Director of the NSW Tissue Bank of the Organ & Tissue Donation Service (South Eastern Sydney Local Health District).

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Prof. Gordon Wallace

Professor Wallace (University of Wollongong) is an Australian Laureate Fellow and the Executive Director of ACES. He is also Founder and Director of the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) at the University of Wollongong and Director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) Materials Node.

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Prof. Mark Daniell

Professor Daniell (University of Melbourne / CERA) is a senior consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, and the Head of Corneal services with the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. He is also the Head of the Corneal Research Unit with the Centre for Eye Research Australia and is a notable ophthalmic researcher with experience in the design and implementation of clinical trials.

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Ms Danielle Fisher

Danielle Fisher (OTDS) is an experienced public health professional and the long standing General Manager of the NSW Organ & Tissue Donation Service. With a demonstrated history of achievement in the organ and tissue donation sector, she brings strengths in governance, strategy, partnership and planning.

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Prof. Damien Harkin

Professor Harkin (Queensland University of Technology) is a seasoned medical research scientist bringing a wealth of expertise in ophthalmology, medical biotechnology, biochemistry and cell biology. He is a celebrated academic with over 20 years of leadership experience in developing cell and tissue therapies for the treatment of ocular disease.

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Prof. Greg Qiao

Professor Greg Qiao (University of Melbourne) is an international expert in the design, synthesis and engineering of polymeric biomaterials for ophthalmic applications. He held an Australian Research Council’s Future Fellowship and is currently an Associate Dean for Graduate Research in the Faculty of Engineering and IT.

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Dr Stephen Palmer

Identified through a shared affiliation with South Eastern Sydney LHD as the host of the OTDS and a Founding Partner of the Randwick Health & Innovation Precinct, Stephen (Industry & Innovation Lead) brings significant applied and academic experience and expertise in preclinical research and IP commercialisation.

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Prof. Simon Eckermann

Identified through a shared affiliation with the University of Wollongong, Senior Professor Eckermann brings a wealth of experience and internationally recognised expertise in health economic and public benefit evaluation.

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The Management Committee, chaired by Danielle Fisher is designed to ensure value creation from the collaboration and delivery of an outcome that is more than the sum of its parts. The Committee directs, controls, manages the connection points of each project to ensure successful delivery of the total program including optimising the benefits from each project. The Committee reports to the Corneal Bioengineering Steering Committee.

The seven Project Teams are represented by:

Prof. Damien Harkin

Biomedical Sciences Professor, Queensland University of Technology

Prof. Greg Qiao

Associate Dean Research Training, University of Melbourne

Dr Heather Machin

Project Manager, University of Melbourne / CERA

Dr Jing Jing You

Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney

Zhilian Yue

Senior Research Fellow, University of Wollongong

Zhi Chen

Associate Research Fellow, University of Wollongong

Vanessa Terpos

Manager Clinical Governance and Quality, OTDS

Sharn Dowsett

Manager NSW Tissue Bank, OTDS

Integrations SWG

Led by Gordon Wallace, considers the bioengineered cornea layers and components in parallel to define the criteria for ‘success of a fully integrated bioengineered cornea.

Cell Culture SWG

Led by Damien Harkin, considers the range, differences and strengths in the various approaches to cell cultivation to determine a standardised approach to laboratory practice and protocols.

Quality and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) SWG

Led by Vanessa Terpos (Manager Clinical Governance and Quality, OTDS), is scoping and developing a quality management system, to meet GMP standards in commercialising products.

Our Partners

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University of Sydney Logo
University of Melbourne Logo
CERA logo
QUT logo
University of Wollongong Logo

Contact us

Would you like to know more about BIENCO’s initiatives? Get in touch!