The National Eye Research Centre was founded in 1986 by David Easty MD FRCS, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Bristol, and Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Bristol Eye Hospital. The charity grew out of the generosity of the many eye hospital patients in his care who were keen to support research for new treatment options. As donations grew over time, we began to support research across the UK in the leading ophthalmology centres at universities and hospitals.

Since its foundation, we have invested over £17 million in research projects aiming to bring scientists ever closer to answering some of the most fundamental questions about eye health and how eye disease develops.

From the very beginning, our goal has been to support the very best research across all eye diseases and causes of sight loss in both adults and children. Three decades on, we are firmly committed to this approach and we believe in the power of investing at the early stages of research which affords scientists the freedom to try new avenues. We see our role as a pump primer of ideas that may, one day, find their way successfully into the clinic and bring positive outcomes to currently intractable conditions. Below is an outstanding example of how, through the long-standing support of our donors, we have contributed to revolutionising clinical outcomes for thousands of patients every year.

The UK’s first Corneal Transplant Service

Our funding enabled the UK’s first Corneal Transplant Service (CTS) to be established. This was part of one of the longest running research programmes, which developed the necessary tissue conservation and surgical techniques to deliver a successful corneal transplant.

The corneal preparation room at Bristol Eye HospitalOur Vice-President, Professor John Armitage OBE, was instrumental in the setting up and running of the CTS Bristol Eye Bank, which provided a national service for storing and supplying corneas for hospitals throughout the UK. Crucial to the success of the CTS was the optimisation of storage of corneal tissue for transplantation which increased storage time from a few days to four weeks. The impact of this advancement would revolutionise the logistics of the supply of corneas around the country. Corneal transplants would no longer be emergency operations but rather elective surgery that could be planned weeks in advance with major benefits to the patients’ recovery.

The Bristol Eye Bank opened in 1986 and it wasn’t long before it became the largest eye bank in Europe. In 1989, the Manchester Eye Bank was integrated into the national corneal supply.  Bristol and Manchester remain the only two corneal tissue banks in the UK. Thanks to the generosity of corneal tissue donors, over 3,500 corneal transplants are performed in the UK every year.

Philanthropic support from the National Eye Research Centre and the Iris Fund pump primed the creation of this important national service for the benefit of over 70,000 patients since its establishment. The CTS is now fully integrated into and funded by the NHS Blood and Transplant Service.

Please help us beat sight loss forever

We are extremely thankful for the generous donations we receive from the many individuals, community groups, charitable foundations and businesses, and those who remember the charity in their Will.

Every donation has helped enormously in progressing our knowledge of eye disease and in the quest for new treatment and prevention methods. Please make a donation today.

Donate now