13 November 2008
Tens of thousands of people with severe vision loss are set to benefit after the announcement today of a landmark partnership of world-leading Australian research institutes. Bionic Vision Australia will pursue the development of the most technologically advanced bionic eye to improve the sight of people with degenerative or inherited retinal disease.
Bionic Vision Australia’s members include the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales, the Bionic Ear Institute, Centre for Eye Research Australia and the Victoria Research Laboratory of NICTA.
A bionic eye will assist in restoring patient mobility, independence and quality of life by effectively replacing the function of damaged light-sensing cells in the eye. While the clarity and definition of vision will not be equal to normal sight, the device will allow patients to move around, detect large objects and, in time, read text and recognise faces and emotions.
Bionic Vision Australia has submitted a detailed plan and funding request to the Australian Government to enable it to undertake the required research and early clinical testing. The New South Wales and Victoria governments have both provided support to the partnership to enable the development of the detailed plan.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Australia to reinforce its leadership in medical bionics, first demonstrated with the development in Melbourne of the bionic ear in the 1970’s,” said Professor Anthony Burkitt, Research Director of Bionic Vision Australia.
“BVA is inspired by the bionic ear experience to build a world-class multi-disciplinary team capable of restoring functional vision to sufferers of inherited and degenerative retinal diseases and thereby make a contribution to addressing the significant cost this disease imposes on the Australian and other economies. The implications for improved health are significant,” he said.