Robert Casson

Professor Robert Casson

Head of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Professor Robert Casson MB,BS (Hons), M.Biostatistics, DPhil, FRANZCO heads the Ophthalmic Research Laboratory in the Discipline of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at Adelaide University. He is an internationally recognized ophthalmic clinician/scientist with special interests in glaucoma, retinal cell biology, neuroprotection, ophthalmic epidemiology and translational ophthalmic research. After completion of a laboratory-based DPhil in 2004 he returned to Australia and established the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology (SAIO), including the Ophthalmic Research Laboratory co-located with Neuropathology in the Hanson Institute. In June 2017, the lab moved to the new AHMS building. In 2012, he completed a Masters of Biostatistics at Adelaide University.He has approximately 250 publications, and multiple NHMRC grants. He is a founding board member of the ophthalmologist-led, evidence-based NGO, Sight for All, and took over as Chair in Nov. 2022. He is a core member of the Global Burden of Disease Study, Vision Loss Expert Group. He graduated with an Order of Merit from the Australian Institute of Company Directors Course in 2023.

Available Research Projects
Ophthalmic Research Lab

Research Project 1 - Bioenergetic Neuroprotection in Glaucoma

Project description: This is a translational project that advances our world leading research in the field of retinal bioenergetic neuroprotection. Glaucoma is a common, potentially blinding disease. Currently treatment is limited to lowering the intraocular pressure. Our lab is investigating new energy supplementation treatments in animal models of glaucoma with a view to rapid clinical translation.

Projects available for: Honours / HDR / Masters / Mphil
Location: AHMS
Research project start:
Semester 1 and 2
Special requirements: Nil


Research Project 2 - Bioenergetic Neuroprotection in Glaucoma

Project description: This is a basic science project that advances our world leading research in the field of retinal energy metabolism. We are utilizing in vivo immunohistochemistry in different species to obtain a detailed profile of the enzymes and transporters involved in retinal energy metabolism in vascular and avascular retinas.

Projects available for: Honours / HDR / Masters / Mphil
Location: AHMS
Research project start:
Semester 1 and 2
Special requirements: Nil


Research Project 3 - New Treatments for Age-related Macular Degeneration

Project description:This project will investigate 3 novel treatments for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). We have 3 exciting novel therapies that we have developed from our previous research that we believe are highly applicable to the ischaemic/oxidative stress component of AMD and choroidal neovascularisation.

The first therapy is a novel, slit-lamp-delivered low energy laser with a 670 nm wavelength. This laser enhances mitochondrial function and reduces oxidative stress. We have recently demonstrated that this laser has a spectacular protective effect against cone degeneration in a model of retinitis pigmentosa and we believe it is translatable to AMD.

The second therapy is a novel calpain antagonist. We recently discovered that this agent has an extremely robust neuroprotective effect in experimental retinal ischemia and is highly likely to protect the retinal pigment epithelium and photoreceptors against ischemic injury.

The third therapy is a novel cardiac-derived peptide that has been shown to have powerful anti-angiogenic effects. The particular appeal of this agent is that its molecular weight is very small (~3.9 kDa); hence, it could potentially be delivered topically, eliminating or reducing the need for intravitreal injections.

We will investigate these novel therapies in retinal pigment epithelial cell culture models and in a rat model of choroidal neovascularisation. 

Projects available for: Honours / HDR / Masters / Mphil

Location: AHMS
Research project start:
Semester 1 and 2
Special requirements: Nil


Research Project 4 - New Treatments for Age-related Macular Degeneration

Project description: Photobiomodulation (PBM) refers to the treatment the treatment of tissue with light in the far-red to near-infrared spectrum (630-1000 nm). Most evidence supports an action of PBM on energy metabolism, in particular, Complex IV of the mitochondrial electron transport chain, but other mechanisms, including anti-oxidant and anti-neuroinflammatory effects, have been proposed. Our in vitro results strongly supported a protective effect on retinal neurons. We used the laser in an attempt to prevent secondary cone photoreceptor degeneration in a rodent model of severe retinitis pigmentosa (RP). The reproducible rescue of cones was extraordinary. A safe and effective therapy to rescue cones in individuals with RP would mean that precious central vision could be preserved, and complete blindness averted. This would clearly be a major medical breakthrough. This project aims to produce a pre-clinical suite of data that supports the proof-of-concept stage and provides a foundation for effective commercialization by further optimizing the laser’s protective effectneuroprotective efficacy and investigating the mechanism(s) of action on cone photoreceptor survivals in laboratory vitroand in animal models

Projects available for: Honours / HDR / Masters / Mphil
Location: AHMS
Research project start: Semester 1 and 2
Special requirements: Nil



Research Project 5 - Bringing Space Technology to the Eye: Fluoresence Hyperspectral Imaging of Real-time Retinal Eneregy Metabolism

Project description: Drawing on ideas from space technology, we have designed and built a novel, affordable retinal imaging device that uses visible light to obtain functional information from the retina at the molecular level. Our device utilizes fluorescence hyperspectral imaging (fHSI) and novel “big data” analysis to detect subtle changes in cellular energy metabolism.1-4 Our innovative approach is perfectly suited to ophthalmic translation and elegantly solves a key problem in eye health care: non-invasive, real-time measurement of retinal metabolism. This has the potential for a paradigm shift in clinical practice. It is ideally suited for the management of glaucoma, where energy insufficiency accompanying neurodegeneration and mitochondrial dysfunction is a likely key driver of pathogenesis. Our highly focussed research strategy provides a powerful scientific foundation for clinical translation by first mapping the fHSI data to pathological changes in experimental glaucoma. We will then obtain fHSI data from healthy and glaucomatous individuals and map these data to the experimental results. This approach optimizes interpretation of the clinical data and paves the way for future widespread clinical application.

Projects available for: Honours / HDR / Masters / Mphil

Location: AHMS
Research project start:
Semester 1 and 2
Special requirements: Nil



  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2011 - ongoing Director of the Ophthalmic Research Laboratory University of Adelaide
    2004 - ongoing Consultant Ophthalmologist Royal Adelaide Hospital
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2018 Teaching Award Trainer of Excellence Royal Austarlain and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists Australia -
    2013 Teaching Award Trainer of Excellence Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists Australia -
    2007 Award Hanson Institute’s New Clinical Science Investigator Award - - -
    2007 Award World Glaucoma Association Young Clinician Scientist Award - - -
    2006 Award Pfizer Neuroscience - - -
    2001 Scholarship British Government Scholarship - - -
    1999 Award Alcon Fellowship - - -
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2007 - 2012 University of Adelaide Australia Master of Biostatistics
    2001 - 2004 University of Oxford UK DPhil
    1986 - 1991 University of Adelaide Australia MB,BS (Hons)
  • Certifications

    Date Title Institution name Country
    2003 GAICD Australian Institute of Company Directors -
    2000 FRANZCO Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists -
  • Research Interests

NHMRC Project Grants 2008-2016

2016-2019 Robert Casson; Dan Peet; Glyn Chidlow; John Wood; 1099932 Novel Photoreceptor Bioenergetics: Basic Science and Clinical Translation $724 500 

2016 -2019 Robert Casson; Jonathan Crowston; Glyn Chidlow; John Wood 1102568 Retinal Ganglion Cell Bioenergetics with Clinical Translation $710500 

2012-2016 1009844 Ecosse Lamoureux; Jonathan Crowston; Robert Casson; Ivan Goldberg Comparing the Effectiveness of Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty with Topical Medication For The Treatment of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma: $614240

2010-2012 626964 Robert Casson; John Wood; Glyn Chidlow, Jonathan Crowston; Ian Trounce:  2010-2012 How does glucose protect the retina and optic nerve against ischaemia? $402,875

2010-2011 627130 Jonathan Karnon; Robert Casson; Janet Hiller; Andrew Metcalfe: 2010-2012 Integrating Health Technology Assessment and Service Delivery and Organisation to Maximise Health Gains $252,050

2009-2011 565202 John P Wood; Glyn Chidlow; Robert Casson: The Role of Tau in the Pathological Retina $360,750 2009-2011

2008-2010 508123 Glyn Chidlow; John Wood; Robert Casson Role of Osteopontin in ischemic-like injury to the retina $343,313

Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia Grants 2010-2015

  1. ORIA 2011: Can topical glucose improve contrast sensitivity in glaucoma patients?: $48,000
  2. ORIA 2012: Undersatnding the Warburg effect in the Retina: $45000
  3. ORIA 2013: Glucose Induced Retinal Neurorecovery: $35000
  4. ORIA 2015: Are Glucose Carbon Atoms Required for Rhodopsin Synthesis $38000

Teaching (and related duties) including Supervision


Creation of New Higher Degree at Adelaide University

In August 2007, in consultation with the Faculty of Health Sciences, I drafted and spearheaded a new higher degree by research at Adelaide University: a Masters of Ophthalmology (M.Ophth). It is a 1-2 year full-time degree. A similar degree can only be obtained at a handful of Universities. The draft was reviewed by Professor Justin Beilby (Executive Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences). The completed manuscript was then reviewed by the REDC and after minor amendments was accepted. The first intake of students occurred in 2008; four students enrolled. All students conducted epidemiological-based projects. One international student is in the process of upgrading to a PhD. In 2009, a further two students have enrolled. We are currently limited by the supply of supervisors, not interested students. One student is conducting a clinical project and the other student an ophthalmic genetic epidemiology project. As our research activities expand, I envisage that the Masters of Ophthalmology will become an increasingly popular higher degree for both local and international students. We have a diverse range of appealing projects to offer, including projects with epidemiological field work in South-east Asia, projects involving indigenous Australians, lab-based research and clinical projects. Within 5 years, we aim to have 10-15 students enrolled.


Stimulation of Student Learning and Innovations in Teaching Methods

Only a small portion of the medical student curriculum at Adelaide University is devoted to ophthalmology. I currently organize the 6th-Year Ophthalmology Lecture Series and previously gave 2 lectures, including information about ophthalmology training. I regularly provide one-on-one and small group teaching to 6th-Year elective students in my clinics at the RAH. To increase undergraduate ophthalmic teaching, I instituted a regular 3 hour teaching session in my clinic at the LMHS to provide 6th year medical students with extra theoretical and  practical tuition in the most important aspects of ophthalmology, particularly in areas that they are likely to encounter as junior hospital doctors or general practitioners. The student evaluation feedback has been extremely positive (see attached evidence). Many students have found the practical demonstration of the direct ophthalmoscope and the slit lamp particularly useful. In 2010 I altered the 6th year teaching curriculum to include a practical demonstration as part of the lecture series. The feedback again was very positive. Some students asked for some written material; hence, I authored an “ophthalmic survival guide” which I now distribute to students.

Since 2006, I have participated in the 4th Year Research Proposal Programme. I have provided projects for and mentored 5 students during this time. All students received outstanding reports. I have served as an Assessor for 5 students. 

In 2011 I re-instituted the 6th-Year Ophthalmology Prize. This takes the form of a $300 book voucher and is awarded to the student with the highest mark in the final Ophthalmology quiz. The students are forewarned that they should study a basic ophthalmology text and atlas of eye disease. A number of students have provided outstanding answers and have clearly done a considerable amount of study. 


Honours Programs in School of Medicine

I have successfully supervised three Honours students: Drew Marshall, Yeng Chan, and Daniel Naryan (currently a Masters student). Drew travelled to Sri Lanka with me in 2007 to collect data for the Kandy Eye Study. He subsequently analysed the visual impairment data and has authored a paper in the leading ophthalmic journal. Yeng completed a lab-based Honours project on the effect of Coenzyme Q on retinal excitotoxic injury. Daniel completed a highly successful Honours year in the lab and has returned in 2015 to comlete a Masters in retinal bioenergtics.   

I have examined 4 Honours theses. 


  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2022 Co-Supervisor Designing a novel therapeutic CRISPR/Cas9 based strategy towards treating genetic eye disease Master of Philosophy (Medical Science) Master Full Time Mr Lachlan Graham Staker
    2022 Co-Supervisor The Development of Novel CRISPR/Cas9 Based Therapies for Genetic Eye Disease Master of Philosophy (Medical Science) Master Full Time Miss Jesse Georgina Kennedy
    2022 Principal Supervisor Childhood blindness in the developing world Master of Philosophy (Ophthalmology) Master Full Time Mr Thomas Keats Rogerson
    2021 Co-Supervisor Investigating the cellular metabolism of the mammalian retina. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr David Sean Hansman
    2019 Principal Supervisor Treating choroidal neovascularization with photobiomodulation laser and retinal rejuvenation therapy laser Master of Philosophy (Ophthalmology) Master Full Time Miss Marzieh Tahmasebi Sarvestani
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2019 - 2022 Principal Supervisor Posterior Corneal Astigmatism Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Benjamin Richard Lahood
    2017 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Bioenergetic Neuroprotection in Experimental Glaucoma Master of Philosophy (Ophthalmology) Master Part Time Dr Chelsea Suzanne Guymer
    2017 - 2019 Principal Supervisor Photobiomodulation Laser in Retinal Degeneration Master of Philosophy (Ophthalmology) Master Full Time Dr Jack Zi Jie Ao
    2017 - 2022 Co-Supervisor Molecular Drivers of Aerobic Glycolysis in the Mammalian Retina Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Cameron David Haydinger
    2015 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Manipulation of Photoreceptor Energy Metabolism for Clinical Advantage Master of Philosophy (Ophthalmology) Master Full Time Mr Daniel Sanju Narayan
    2015 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Creatine neuroprotection in the retina Master of Philosophy (Ophthalmology) Master Full Time Dr Paul Ikgan Sia
    2014 - 2020 Co-Supervisor Investigating the Warburg effect and the role of pyruvate kinase M2 in retinal Müller glial cells Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Thaksaon Kittipassorn
    2013 - 2014 Principal Supervisor Characterization of Rat Retinal Responses to a Conventional Retinal Laser and a Novel Short Pulse Duration Laser Master of Philosophy (Ophthalmology) Master Full Time Mr O'Sam Shibeeb
    2013 - 2017 Co-Supervisor The Activation of Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases in the Optic Nerve Head in a Model of Ocular Hypertension Master of Philosophy (Ophthalmology) Master Full Time Miss Teresa Mammone
    2013 - 2017 Co-Supervisor Periocular Malignancy and Eyelid Reconstruction Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Michelle Tian Sun
    2011 - 2014 Co-Supervisor Factors affecting success in endoscopic dacryocystorhinostomy Master of Philosophy (Ophthalmology) Master Full Time APrf Weng Onn Chan
    2010 - 2014 Principal Supervisor Aspects of retinal energy metabolism Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Guoge Han
    2008 - 2010 Principal Supervisor Cataract in a Rural Sri Lankan Population Master of Ophthalmology Master Full Time Mr Paul Athanasiov
    2008 - 2011 Principal Supervisor Hyperglycaemia in Experimental Glaucoma Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Andreas Johannes Anton Ebneter
    2007 - 2016 Principal Supervisor The Effect of Hyperglycaemia on Experimental Subacute Ischaemic Optic Neuropathy and Retinopathy Master of Surgery Master Full Time APrf Matthew Holman
    2005 - 2011 Principal Supervisor Aspects of Retinal and Optic Nerve Pathology after Excitotoxic Retinal Injury Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Dr Sarabjit Saggu
  • Board Memberships

    Date Role Board name Institution name Country
    2014 - ongoing Chair Ellex medical Advisory Board - -
    2009 - ongoing - Sight for All - -
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2010 - ongoing Board Member World Glaucoma Association - -
  • Consulting/Advisories

    Date Institution Department Organisation Type Country
    2015 - ongoing Calpain Therapeutics - - -
    2015 - ongoing Ellex Medical Lasers - Business and professional -
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2012 - ongoing Board Member Ophthalmic Epidemiology - -
    2011 - ongoing Editor-In-chief Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology - -
  • Position: Head of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
  • Phone: 83137150
  • Email:
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences, floor 7
  • Org Unit: Surgical Specialities

Connect With Me
External Profiles