The Bionics Institute is delighted to announce a $23.5m (AUD) investment by Hong Kong-based China Huarong International Holdings Ltd and State Path Capital Limited to develop and commercialise the next generation bionic eye.
This journey began twelve years ago when Professor Rob Shepherd from the Bionics Institute approached The Ian Potter Foundation to support our 'blue sky’ research to develop a bionic eye: an implant capable of restoring vision to people suffering degenerative eye diseases. This initial funding allowed early proof-of-concept research and two years later, John T Reid Charitable Trusts provided a significant grant shared with our clinical colleagues from the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) to support the Bionic Eye Biocompatibility and Efficacy Feasibility Study.
The confidence of these philanthropic organisations in the Bionics Institute was justified when in 2010 the Bionic Eye project was awarded a $50m federal grant from the Australian Research Council to fund an Australian-wide consortium (Bionic Vision Australia, BVA) of biomedical engineers, surgeons and scientists to bring a prototype bionic eye device to early clinical trial. The commercial arm of BVA, Bionic Vision Technologies, today announced that it has raised $23.5m to move the bionic eye closer to the marketplace and into the hands of clinicians and patients.
Bionics Institute Director, Professor Rob Shepherd said, “I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedication and skills of our team of researchers and engineers at the Bionics Institute and our collaborators in Bionic Vision Australia, in particular our clinical partners at the Centre for Eye Research Australia. This technology is about to revolutionise the clinical management of patients with late stage retinitis pigmentosa and within a decade I expect the bionic eye will have made a significant impact in the clinical management of other severe forms of visual impairment associated with the retina.”
The Bionics Institute was responsible for the design, manufacture, and safety testing of the prototype bionic eye, as well as the testing the patients’ perceptions in our purpose-built laboratory. Since the successful clinical trial of our prototype bionic eye (2012-2014: as part of BVA), our researchers have been working on all components of the bionic eye to improve the technology and the visual experience of recipients in preparation for the clinical trial of the next generation device, due to commence later this year.
The bionic eye aims to restore vision to those suffering from blindness caused by the loss of the light-sensitive cells of the retina. This technology electrically stimulates the surviving neurons within the retina via an implant containing an array of stimulating electrodes. The artificial vision will be used for tasks of orientation and mobility, as well as improving independence in activities of daily living.
Australian Research Council announcement
The Bionics Institute gratefully acknowledges the contributions of numerous trusts and foundations, individual donors and government agencies for making this journey possible, including:
Australian Research Council
National Health and Medical Research Council
The Ian Potter Foundation
John T Reid Charitable Trusts
Neville & Di Bertalli
John & Janet Calvert-Jones
John & Jennifer Prescott
GJ & MA Jorgenson
Jack & Robert Smorgon Families Foundation
Bionic Vision Australia (2010 - 2016) was a national consortium of researchers from the: Bionics Institute, Centre for Eye Research Australia, National ICT Australia (now Data61), University of Melbourne and University of New South Wales, with the National Vision Research Institute, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and University of Western Sydney as project partners.