Professor Nick Di Girolamo

Professor Nick Di Girolamo


BSc University of Sydney (conferred 1986)



PhD University of New South Wales (conferred 1998)

Title: Mechanisms of Tissue Destruction in Inflammatory Eye Disease


Medicine & Health
School of Medical Sciences

Professor Nick Di Girolamo is Director of the Ocular Diseases Research Unit and Head of the Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Research, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales. Nick leads an internationally recognised group whose mission is to restore sight in patients blinded from severe corneal disease. His research program integrates basic sciences, revolutionary animal models, and world-first clinical trials using adult stem cells; the results of which have demonstrated improved eye health and vision in patients. Nick has received two decades of continuous funding from the NHMRC and other national and international funding agencies and has 120 peer reviewed published articles.

Broad Research Areas:
Stem Cells, Ophthalmology, Transplantation, Pathology, Inflammation

BSc, PhD

Society Memberships & Professional Activities:
1. Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARV0),

2. International Ocular Inflammation Society (IOIS),

3. Sydney Tissue Engineering and Matrix group (STEAM),

4. Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR),

5. Member, NHMRC GRP Panels(Autonomic/Peripheral & Sensory Nervous System; Surgery/Dental/Medical & Related Technologies),

6. Member, ORIA Research Advisory Committee,

7. Editorial board Member, Ocular Surface

8.Member of the TGA Advisory Committee on Biologicals

Specific Research Keywords:
Corneal Stem Cell Biology, Stem Cell Therapy, Ocular Surface Disease, Ultraviolet Radiation, Dry Eye Disease

Wallace Wurth (East) Building (C27)

Project Grants for Research (2015- )


UNSW Goldstar Award

Mapping the fate of corneal epithelial stem cells in health and disease

CIA-Di Girolamo N.

$40,000 total



Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia

ORIA/Renensson Bequest Grant

Destiny of limbal epithelial stem cells in the normal cornea

CIA-Di Girolamo N.

$50,000 total



Kylaco PTY LTD

Spondyathropathies (spas) peptide vaccine

CIA-Marcal, CIB-Wakefiled, CIC-Di Girolamo

$200,000 total



NHMRC Project Grant APP1101078

Mapping the dynamics of corneal stem cells during aging and after wounding and transplantation

CIA-Di Girolamo, CIB-Watson, CIC-Wakefield

$548,903 total



UNSW Goldstar Award

Methods to mark and graft corneal stem cells to treat blindness

CIA-Di Girolamo N.

$40,000 total



Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

Improving clinical outcomes for patients receiving corneal stem cell grafts

CIA-Di Girolamo N.




Sao Paolo State Foundation for Research Support

Culturing human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells on Nanoskin scaffolds for ocular surface reconstruction

Schellini, Viveiros, Rainho, da Silva, Ximenes, Padovani, Basmaji, de Olyveira, Di Girolamo

AUD $75,000



Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation

Development of a vaccine to treat HLA B27 spondylarthritis (SpA)

CIA-Wakefield, CIB-Di Girolamo, CIC-Tedla

AUD $50,000



Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia

ORIA/Ivy May Stephenson Grant

A novel native scaffold for corneal epithelial regeneration

CIA-Di Girolamo N.

$49,500 total



Australia Research Council (ARC) Strategic Research Initiative Award

SR1101002 Stem Cell Australia: Transitioning into the future

Consortium of 65 CIs from 9 Australian Stakeholder Institutions and Partner Organizations (actual funds received $124,500)

$3,000,000 total



NHMRC Project Grant APP1156944

Improving diagnostics and therapeutics for corneal blindness

CIA-Di Girolamo, CIB-Watson, CIC-Wakefield

$827,204 total



Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Accelerator Research Stem Cell Program

Stem cells for sight: building the pathway from the lab to the clinic

Watson, Di Girolamo, O’Connor, Munsie, Jamieson, Chow, Harkin

$425,000 total



Diabetes Australia. A Novel treatment for type 1 diabetes that regenerates sensory nerves: using the eye as a model.  

CIA-Di Girolamo, CIB-Rye, CIC-Cochran, CID-Park



  1. ABC’s New Inventors (02-06-09) Episode winner and People’s Choice.
  2. Finalist and winner (23-11-09) of “Less is More Award” awarded to an inventor whose invention impacts the community or environment.
  3. Finalist 2010 UNSW Inventor of the Year (Biomedical)
  4. First Prize, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology ARVO-Scientific Image Contest winner. 2016 Migrating Multicolored Corneal Epithelia
  5. School of Medical Sciences, Researcher of the Year (2019)

Ultraviolet Radiation and Tumours of the Human Cornea

1. Our research program focuses on understanding how excessive solar ultraviolet radiation and viral infections are potential triggers for diseases that develop on the surface of the human eye including benign pterygia, and invasive neoplasias. We study the role inflammatory mediators including cytokines, growth factors and matrix metalloproteinases in the pathogenesis of these lesions using cell culture models and fresh human tissue specimens.

Corneal Stem Cell Transplantation

2. The second arm of our research program focuses on identifying, isolating and cultivating human corneal epithelial stem cells to help us understand how the ocular surface is replenished and maintained in a healthy transparent state under normal physiological conditions and following trauma. We also hope to identify better culture conditions and robust markers for these rare cells with the ultimate aim of generating better quality stem cell grafts to treat patients with severe corneal diseases that result in blindness. The other area we are interested in pursuing is to develop diagnostic and prognostic in-office tests for patients with limbal stem cell deficiency. Initial proof-of-concept work to be carried out in animal models where our findings will be translated to the clinic

Corneal Wound-Healing

3. The third arm of our research program focuses on understanding the mechanisms of wound-healing in the cornea to devise better therapies to treat patients with persistent corneal epithelial defects. Patients with such conditions do not require a cell or tissue replacement strategy so we are searching for corneal wound-healing factors that can be dispensed to accelerate the healing process to prevent infection and other complications.

Dry Eye Disease

4. The fourth arm of our research program focuses on developing clinically relevant animal models of Dry Eye Disease (DED) understanding how this disease evolves, the ocular surface cell types involved in its pathogenesis and importantly treatments that can be used on patients with this condition.

Phase I Medicine Undergraduate teaching MFAC1501