Bionic Vision Technologies raised AU$23.5 million ($18 million), which will go toward the development and commercialization of its device to restore vision to the blind.
The company, which has been funded by a AU$50 million grant from the Australian government’s research council, is working on devices for retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic cause of blindness that has no treatment. The National Eye Institute estimates it to affect one in 4,000 people.
Retinitis pigmentosa refers to a group of rare, genetic disorders that affect the rods and cones in the retina. In the early stages of the disease, rods break down and patients experience night blindness, according to the National Eye Institute. In later stages, cones also degenerate, patients lose peripheral vision.
Bionic Vision’s device comprises an implant, placed behind the retina, where it stimulates the surviving cells, an externally worn camera and vision-processing unit. The camera, worn on a pair of glasses, captures an image, sends it to the vision-processing unit and then to the implant.
The funding, from China Huarong International Holdings and State Path Capital Limited, will support the manufacture of the “bionic eye” devices, as well as a clinical trial slated to start in the coming months, Bionic Vision said in a statement.
“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,” said Robert Klupacs, Bionic Vision executive chairman, in the statement.
The trial will follow patients who receive the implant in their daily activities, while an earlier trial with a prototype only monitored them in the clinic, the company said. The investigators will measure patients’ mobility and independence.