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

such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP), both of which destroy the cells that allow light to be translated into recognizable images. By 2020, that figure is expected to double, creating a virtual vision-loss epidemic.

It is this current need, as well as the future threat, that prompted the DOE to create this artificial retina project.

Under the research agreements, the institutions will jointly share intellectual property rights and royalties from their research. This will speed progress by freeing the researchers to share details of their work with collaborators. In addition, Second Sight will obtain a limited exclusive license for inventions developed during the artificial retina project.

"This collaboration is very unique in that it taps the incredible engineering know-how of the Department of Energy labs, which have some of the most advanced engineering capabilities in the world," Humayun says. "This unique partnership between academia, DOE labs and industry will help facilitate technology transfer from academia as well as DOE labs to make a realizable retinal prosthesis for our blind patients within the near future."

The first implant was able to provide a semblance of sight using only 16 electrodes, which are stimulated by the images captured by a tiny camera mounted on a unique pair of glasses. The implant then sends that signal to the remaining healthy retinal nerve cells, which then pass it on to the optic nerve and, hence, to the brain.

The most current version of the implant, with 60 electrodes, is in preclinical trials. Despite having more electrodes, the implant itself is actually smaller than its predecessor, and requires a less invasive surgery to implant. The hope is to quickly move up to a significantly larger array in the next few years, and then-perhaps within 10 years-to a 1,000-electrode implant that will allow its users to see image de
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Contact: Jon Weiner
jonweine@usc.edu
323-442-2830
University of Southern California
14-Oct-2004


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