Dr Thomas Edwards (Class of 1994) Vitreoretinal Surgeon

Posted on February 20, 2024

Thomas Edwards (Class of 1994) has helped pioneer technologies that are designed to restore sight in people with formerly untreatable blindness. Tom worked on the world’s first robotic retinal surgery, co-led research into bionic eyes, and conducted the first clinical trials of gene therapy for inherited retinal diseases (IRD), where vision loss can start in childhood.

Now a vitreoretinal surgeon at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and a Principal Investigator at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, he’s established a registry to collect longitudinal data on IRD and leads a lab group working on novel therapies “to try correct the spelling mistakes in the DNA that have caused these conditions”. His team undertook surgery on a child In September using the world’s first approved gene therapy for IRDs. “A four-year-old boy was losing his vision and we’ve hopefully prevented that.”

After Friends’, Tom studied medicine at the University of Tasmania (where he rowed for UTAS and Australia), then worked as a junior doctor at Royal Hobart Hospital. A stretch at the Australian Institute of Sport didn’t get him to the Olympics but he secured funding to do his PhD and lab-work in medical genetics at the University of Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge University Boat Club. He trained in ophthalmology in Melbourne before returning to England with his wife for postdoctoral research at Oxford, thanks to a Nuffield Medical Fellowship. There he worked with a world leader in retinal gene therapy, Robert MacLaren.

“Sometimes people look like they’ve planned everything out,” says Tom, a father of three. “But I think the best thing to do is see where even a half an opportunity leads you. I’ve been fortunate with what’s come my way and I’ve tried to squeeze every single drop of opportunity from that.”