DOE labs, universities and second sight partner to speed development of 'artificial retina'

CHICAGO, IL In an effort to speed the design and development of an artificial retina that could potentially help millions of people blinded by retinal diseases, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced today that five Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, a private company and three universities have signed agreements to form a research partnership.

The goal of the agreements signed today is to advance the science, technology and clinical success of the field of artificial sight using the facilities and resources of DOE's national laboratories.

At today's announcement in Chicago, the first patient to receive a prototype implant in 2002 described what it was like being able to "see" large letters and to differentiate between a cup, a plate and a knife after being blind for over 50 years. To date, six volunteers have received implants of a micro-electronic device that rests on the surface of the retina to perform the function of normal photoreceptive cells. The artificial retina technology was featured at the department's "What's Next Expo," an event designed to showcase the newest, most innovative, cutting-edge scientific and technological advances to interest young people in pursuing careers in math and science.

"The Department of Energy has led the way to many scientific breakthroughs, especially when several scientific disciplines combined to make a whole greater than the sum of the parts," Secretary Abraham said. "This project is one such example where biology, physics, and engineering have joined forces to deliver a capability that will enable blind people to see. This agreement between the DOE laboratories and the private sector will facilitate transfer of many aspects of DOE technology to a clinical device that has the potential of restoring sight to millions of blind individuals."

The agreements allow Second Sight Medical Products Inc. based in Sylmar, Calif., to obtain a limited exclusive license for

Contact: Jeff Sherwood
DOE/US Department of Energy

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