Nano Retina receives grant to develop bionic retina

4 May 2010

Nano Retina has received a grant of US$750,000 from the Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation to further develop a bionic retina. The Bio-Retina is designed to return full sight to those blinded by retinal degenerative conditions.

Bio-Retina is a tiny implant designed to replace the damaged retina in the eye. The implant's nano-sized components are powered by a special pair of activation eyeglasses. Bio-Retina will be surgically implanted in a minimally invasive, 30-minute procedure, which requires only local anaesthesia in which the implant is 'glued' to the damaged retina. Full sight is anticipated immediately.

The BIRD Foundation acts to encourage collaboration between Israeli and American companies in various fields of technology. Dr Eitan Yudilevich executive director of the BIRD Foundation said, “Returning sight to those blinded by a retinal degeneration condition is a goal of enormous importance. Nano Retina is combining outstanding US and Israeli human resources and technologies to develop a ‘bionic retina’, which if successful, will likely change the lives of millions for the better.”

Ra’anan Gefen, managing director of Nano Retina said, “50,000 people in the United States become blind annually. In addition, there are currently 3.6 million Americans aged 40 and older who are legally blind. Bio-Retina is designed to restore full sight to those blinded by degenerative conditions such as AMD, Diabetes Retinopathy or Retinitis Pigmentosa. By full sight we mean the patient will be able to watch TV and identify faces.”

He continued, “We have a working ‘electrical’ prototype and have demonstrated proof of concept. We intend to use the generous funding from BIRD to miniaturize the system and develop a ‘nano’ prototype. All of the medical and technology industry experts with whom we have consulted agree that our product development expectations are attainable. We have laid the development foundation and now expect to begin clinical trials in 2012.”

Nano Retina is a joint venture of Rainbow Medical Ltd and Zyvex Labs. The Bio-Retina incorporates nano-sized components in a flat implant the size of a child's fingernail. The resolution of the first generation implant is expected to be 36x36 pixels and the second generation 72x72, which enables people to watch TV and recognise faces. A rechargeable, battery-powered mini laser, situated on a pair of eyeglasses, powers the implant wirelessly. The company expects to conduct clinical trials in 2012 and has set a target price for the retina at $60,000.


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