$42 million grant brings bionic eye closer to reality


Date: 17/12/2009

A collaborative research project to develop a bionic eye has received $42 million from the Australian Research Council (ARC). The successful team, Bionic Vision Australia, includes Professor John Morley from the University of Western Sydney's School of Medicine.

The Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, announced the grant as part of the Australian Research Council's Research in Bionic Vision Science and Technology Initiative, which was developed in response to the Australia 2020 Summit.

"The Australian Government's investment will help us to give and restore sight to thousands of people around the world," Senator Carr said earlier this week.

Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) is developing a functioning retinal prosthesis, or bionic eye, to restore visual perception to patients with inherited and degenerative retinal diseases. The research has the potential to ultimately assist over 50,000 Australians who have severely impaired vision or blindness.

Professor John Morley, Chair of Anatomy and Cell Biology in the UWS School of Medicine, is a neuroscientist whose research is focused on understanding the ways in which images are processed by the eye and visual regions of the brain.

"The $42 million grant from the Australian Government to Bionic Vision Australia will provide significant support to the research team to develop innovative and viable systems which will benefit those who have severely impaired vision," says Professor Morley.

"The cross discipline nature of the project also means the research will bring greater understanding and breakthroughs in other areas including neuroscience, microelectronics, wireless communication and ophthalmology."

The first goal of the team is to deliver vision which enables people to distinguish the outlines of large objects, for example buildings, cars or other obstacles. This will provide better mobility and improved quality of life.

The bionic eye will use a sophisticated integration of technologies including, small cameras, wireless communications, compact and reliable batteries and complex electronic circuitry as well as delicate surgical procedures to place implants inside the eye.

The first human implant is likely to occur in 2013 and take place at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne.

Bionic Vision Australia is a consortium including the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales, the Bionic Ear Institute, the Centre for Eye Research Australia and NICTA, and supported by researchers from the Australian National University and the University of Western Sydney.

For more information on Bionic Vision Australia visit: http://www.bionicvision.org.au/

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