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Department of Energy announces new agreement with USC, national labs and private company

Los Angeles, Oct. 14- In an effort to speed the design and development of an artificial retina that might potentially help millions of people blinded by degenerative retinal diseases, U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham has announced that five Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, along with a California-based private company and three universities, have signed agreements to form a research partnership.

Leading this partnership is the Doheny Eye Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, and a team of retina experts under the direction of Mark Humayun, M.D., Ph.D., who has already completed the first phase of testing of a microelectronic retinal implant he helped invent. The implant has allowed patients to detect when lights are on or off, describe an object's motion, count individual items and even locate objects in their environment.

The prosthesis was developed and manufactured in partnership with Second Sight Medical Products Inc., based in Sylmar, Calif., which is also involved in the DOE partnership.

As part of this agreement, Humayun and the Keck School will receive $6 million over the next three years to conduct their portion of the research.

"The Department of Energy has led the way to many scientific breakthroughs, especially when several scientific disciplines combine to make a whole greater than the sum of its parts," Abraham said in announcing the award. "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 individuals."

There are 25 million people across the globe, including 6 million Americans, who are blind or severely visually impaired by diseases
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Contact: Jon Weiner
jonweine@usc.edu
323-442-2830
University of Southern California
14-Oct-2004


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