$23m for Australian bionic eye group

The Australian consortium behind the bionic eye has announced it has raised A$23.5 million from two Hong Kong organisations to develop and commercialise its next generation devices aimed at restoring vision to the blind.
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An illustration of how the technology works. Image: Bionic Vision Australia

The Australian consortium behind the bionic eye has announced it has raised A$23.5 million from two Hong Kong organisations to develop and commercialise its next generation devices aimed at restoring vision to the blind.

Bionic Vision Technologies (BVT) will use the funding from China Huarong International Holdings and State Path Capital to manufacture devices and begin a human clinical trial of its ‘bionic eye’ implant in patients with the inherited degenerative eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa. The condition is the most common cause of inherited blindness and affects more than 1.5 million people worldwide.

“This investment is an important milestone for our unique Australian technology and an endorsement of our approach to making a positive impact on global health," said BVT Executive Chairman Robert Klupacs.

“The funding will propel this Australian technology into clinical trials in coming months as we work towards securing regulatory approval and a commercial launch in key markets where loss of vision is a significant medical burden. There is currently no treatment for conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa and our new investors recognise BVT has developed a world-leading solution with potential to make a significant impact patient’s sight and lifestyle.”

Bionic Vision Australia is a national consortium of researchers from The University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, Western Sydney University, Bionics Institute, Centre for Eye Research Australia, Data61, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and National Vision Research Institute.

Australian Research Council (ARC) Acting Chief Executive Officer, Leanne Harvey, said the Australian Government, through the ARC’s Research in Bionic Vision Science and Technology Initiative, has provided total funding of $50 million to The University of Melbourne to administer Bionic Vision Australia,.

“Bionic Vision Australia has successfully developed Australia’s research capacity in bionic vision science, undertaking highly innovative and internationally competitive research," she said.

“Bringing together a cross-disciplinary group of world-leading experts, Bionic Vision Australia’s research program has included successful testing in patients of a prototype implant system right through to the development of the implant system now to undergo clinical regulatory testing and commercialisation."

The device, implanted in the retina, will initially provide light perception and enable some vision to blind patients with degenerative retinal conditions.

Nominations are also now open for the Biomedical College's David Dewhurst Award and Women in Biomedical Engineering Scholarship. Find out more.

[An illustration of how the technology works.]