A/Prof Riccardo Natoli
What is your current research interest?
Non/low-invasive therapeutics for slowing the progression of retinal degeneration.
How long have you been in the Vision Lab?
Clear Vision Research started in 2017, but I have been doing research in vision sciences since 2001.
What is your favourite experiment?
The experiment I haven't done yet.
What are your favourite hobbies outside of the lab?
Drumming, gardening, spending time with my awesome family
What is your favourite cuisine?
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a growing problem in our ageing population and with treatment options severely lacking, it is estimated that by 2030 1.7 million Australians, and 300 million people worldwide will lose their vision because of this debilitating disease. My ground-breaking work using microRNA to understand and treat this disease is funded by competitive funding agencies, industry partnerships, and a prestigious ANU Translational Fellowship; all contributing to achieving my aim to address this major global health issue.
My research achievements are evidenced in my contributions to 58 publications, and an investment of $6.5 million in research funding by commercial and competitive funding agencies, including 2 NHMRC Ideas Grants in 2020 (CIA-2002239; CIB-2003395). To communicate my work to the research community, I have been invited to a number of institutions and conferences both nationally and internationally. In 2016 I was awarded a travel grant by the BrightFocus Foundation to attend and present at the XVIth International Symposium on Retinal Degeneration in Japan. In 2018 I received an invitation to present at the largest international vision conference, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting. Also in 2018, I received a University of Wisconsin (USA), Madison McPherson Eye Research Institute Scholarship, allowing me to present at ARVO and at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 2019 I received a Tall Poppy Award in recognition of my scientific excellence and achievements in the fields of vision sciences.
I am passionate about community engagement, education, and leadership, which inspired me to take a unique approach to nurturing the next generation of vision researchers and science communicators. My philosophy for research leadership and engagement is a bottom up approach where supporting an individual’s educational aspirations drives research success. I established Clear Vision Research 2017 (www.clearvisionresearch.com) to provide a framework for supporting this philosophy and to provide pathways for the community to engage in our research. This initiative ensures that students and staff in my research lab participate in driving our research goals, gain direct exposure to the people impacted by AMD, and understand the critical need for science outreach.
I consider research-led education to be integral to a researcher’s career. As such, I am a dedicated lecturer in genetics and cell biology in the ANU Medical School. I have chaired or co-chaired 8 graduated PhD students who have either gone to positions or been offered roles at the National Eye Institute (NIH), Berkeley, Harvard, University of Melbourne, University of Sydney and University of Queensland. I currently have 2 PhD students (with two others having graduated or submitted in 2020) and two honours students in the lab and have supervised numerous Honours, Masters and ANU Medical School Research Projects students. I am also currently the co-chair of the ANUMS research committee, helping frame the future of medical research at the ANU.
Through Clear Vision Research I developed a school outreach program called the ‘Young Visionaries’ to promote the importance of science to school children and educate parents and teachers on the importance of eye health. I have had repeated invitations to present to Retina Australia and The Blind Society and am actively involved in science public events such as National Science Week, Science in ACTion and National Science Youth Forum. I have featured in national and local media both for my research on AMD and for my promotion of the importance of donating one’s body to medical research. My research has been featured on National Nine News, Win Local News, and SBSs The Feed, as well as ABC Radio, Radio National and various print and online media.