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News, Tech

Australian company given $18m to develop bionic eye

05/04/2017By Matthew Woodley
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Bionic Vision Technologies (BVT), an Australian university-owned company tasked with creating the world’s first bionic eye, has raised US$18 million (AU$23.5 m) to help it develop and commercialise its next generation devices.

To date, the company had been funded through a five year $50 million Special Research Initiative grant administered by the Australian Research Council. However, the injection of funds from Hong Kong-based China Huarong International Holdings and State Path Capital will see the company transition to a commercialisation stage business.

State Path chairman, Mr Alastair Lam, said the company’s investment aligned with its strategy of backing transformative new technology that had significant global potential.

Lam is the nephew of Asia’s richest man, Hong Kong-based billionaire Sir Li Ka-shing, and he used these connections to introduce BVT to the Chinese government-backed China Huarong International holdings.

“Given BVT's commitment to developing and delivering a revolutionary solution for vision loss, we believe its ‘bionic eye’ technology has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people and meet a large unmet need. Our investment support will help move the current product closer to market and the communities who will benefit,” Lam said.

Meanwhile, BVT executive chairman Mr Robert Klupacs said the investment was an important milestone and could potentially help millions of people globally.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The investment was made on the basis of BVT’s advanced work in developing bionic vision technologies, including a successful clinical trial of a prototype device in three patients.

Two other global groups – California’s Second Sight and France’s Pixium Vision – are also attempting to develop versions of the bionic eye. So far both companies appear closer to a breakthrough, given they have managed to generate more investment and already attained some early regulatory approvals.

However, BVT claims its bionic eye has a number of significant advantages over competitors, including a superior surgical approach, stability of the device, and unique vision processing software that potentially improves the patient’s experience.

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Other institutions to hold equity in BVT include the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales, the Bionics Institute, Centre for Eye Research Australia, CSIRO’s Data 61, The Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital, Western Sydney University and the Australian College of Optometry.

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