DOE Artificial Retina Project

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Funding for this work ended in FY 2011.

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DOE Artificial Retina Project Takes Top Prize: R&D 100 Editors' Choice Award

Nov. 12, 2009 - UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Artificial Retina Project received the coveted Editors' Choice Award at the 2009 R&D 100 Award ceremony in Orlando, Florida. This award comes in addition to the 2009 R&D 100 Award and a previous R&D 100 Innovator of the Year Award won by Mark Humayun, director of the Artificial Retina Project.

DOE Artificial Retina Project Wins Prestigious 2009 R&D 100 Technology Award

July 20, 2009 - Researchers involved with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Artificial Retina Project have won a prestigious 2009 R&D 100 Award. The award recognizes the collection of innovative technologies in engineering, microfabrication, material sciences, and microelectronics that has been integrated into a retinal prosthesis giving blind patients rudimentary vision.

"The Department of Energy's national laboratories are incubators of innovation, and I'm proud they are being recognized once again for their remarkable work," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "The cutting-edge research and development being done in our national labs is vital to maintaining America's competitive edge, increasing our nation's energy security, and protecting our environment. I want to thank this year's winners for their work and congratulate them on this award."

The Doheny Eye Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) leads the multidisciplinary collaboration that includes contributions from five DOE national laboratories—Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories, four universities—California Institute of Technology, Doheny Eye Institute at the University of Southern California, North Carolina State University, and University of California, Santa Cruz, and private industry—Second Sight® Medical Products, Inc., which is the group responsible for commercializing the product and conducting clinical trials.

“This award is bestowed every year only to the most innovative bioscience programs in the United States,” said Keck School of Medicine Dean Carmen A. Puliafito, M.D., M.B.A. “We hope the award will help push the artificial retina project to the next level. We are honored that R&D Magazine has chosen to recognize that the Keck School of Medicine of USC is home to important research that will improve the human condition.”

The artificial retina, a unique bio-electronic implant, gives those with retinitis pigmentosa, a severe form of retinal degeneration leading to blindness, the ability to recognize objects and navigate in their environment. The implant is intended eventually to enable patients to read large print and recognize faces. As of mid-July 2009, 30 patients have had artificial retina systems implanted as part of ongoing clinical trials.

Patients now can distinguish between light and dark and see some objects with the aid of the implant, which features 60 pixels. In order to make the leap to reading and recognizing faces, the implant must feature 1,000 pixels. As part of the research collaborative, scientists are now developing an implant with 200 pixels.

“Creating a 200-pixel implant is a major accomplishment, but we need to keep our focus on the 1,000 electrode device because this has a very high likelihood of restoring reading vision,” said Mark Humayun, M.D., Ph.D., artificial retina program director who incidentally was the 2005 R&D Magazine Innovator of the Year. Humayun further added that “With continued collaboration and funding, this goal will be within reach. Receiving the R&D 100 Award this year is especially important as it indicates the tremendous engineering and science entailed but also the widespread humanitarian benefit of this project.”

Humayun has been involved for nearly 20 years developing an artificial retina and conducted the initial studies of electrical stimulation of the human retina that forms the basis of the artificial retina project.

“This award recognizes the leadership of Mark Humayun and his talented team and collaborators and partners across the nation,” said Stephen Ryan, M.D., president, Doheny Eye Institute. “The fundamental contributions to science and engineering developed through the collaboration on this project open up great opportunities in many different fields related to prosthetics, bioscience, and biomimetics.”

R&D Magazine issues the award every year for the most innovative technologies in bioscience. This year's awards were announced July 20, 2009.

The artificial retina team was established through a U.S. DOE-sponsored Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) in 2004 with the mission of developing the world’s most advanced high-density microelectronic–tissue hybrid prosthesis for imaging.

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The Artificial Retina Project was part of the
Biological and Environmental Research Program
of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science
Funding for this work ended in FY 2011.

DOE Office of Science

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