Bionic Vision Technologies keeps its eye on the prize

December 10, 2021

Australia company Bionic Vision Technologies is in the race to produce the first bionic eye.

Image: Shutterstock

First, they restored hearing for the deaf. Now, they’re creating functional vision for the blind. 

The people who helped develop the world’s Cochlear implant are now leading the global race to produce the first bionic eye. 

Australian company Bionic Vision Technologies (BVT) expects to begin an international trial in 2023, hoping for approvals to commercialise its product.

Trials of BVT’s first- and second-generation bionic eye systems in 2012 and 2016 delivered positive results with life-changing improvements. 

Participants with near-total blindness, who suffered from inherited retinal diseases, were able to recognise the faces of loved ones in a cafe, recognise traffic signals and signs, and identify boats on the water.

“To lose your sight after suffering from an inherited retinal disease is absolutely devastating,” CEO of BVT, Dr Ash Attia, said. “So, for me, it’s a miracle to be able to give functional vision back.”

Image: Ash Attia CEO of Bionic Vision Technologies (provided)

BVT’s Bionic Eye System consists of a pair of high-tech glasses and a surgical implant. Cameras inside the frame of the glasses translate images into electrical signals, which travel through electrodes implanted behind the retina. This delivers visual information to the person’s brain. 

In September this year, US company Cirtec Medical took a strategic stake in BVT to help create the Gen 3 Bionic Eye. Now, BVT is seeking to raise US $30 Million in equity funding to manufacture clinical units and conduct clinical trials in Australia, China, the US and the EU.

“With the extra funding, we can finally conduct the third and final trial, and gain regulatory approval from health authorities,” Dr Attia said. “Then, people who desperately need it will be able to get access to the Bionic Eye.”

Dr Attia was part of the company which brought the implantable defibrillator to the world. His life’s work is bringing much-needed medical technology to those who need it the most.

Globally, inherited retinal disease impacts around 3.9 million people. The Bionic Eye market for people affected specifically by retinitis pigmentosa is around $3.4 billion.

After 12 years in development, BVT hopes to have its Gen 3 Bionic Eye system available for sale in 2025.

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