Bionic Eye

diagram of person wearing glasses

Monash Vision Group prepares for proof-of-concept demonstration of the Gennaris bionic vision system in first patients

Monash Vision Group's Gennaris bionic vision system combines state of the art digital and biomedical technology with custom-designed headgear.

Established in 2010, Monash Vision Group (MVG) is a collaboration between Monash University, Alfred Health, MiniFAB and Grey Innovation.1   Over the past five years MVG has designed, prototyped and assembled the full end-to-end Gennaris system and is now verifying that the device is safe and functional before undertaking proof-of-concept studies in patients. The Group is planning for first patient implantations at The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne by the end of 2016.

Many people who are blind have damaged optic nerves, which prevent signals being transmitted from the retina to the 'vision centre' of the brain. The Gennaris bionic vision system has been designed to bypass this damage, making it possible to treat many conditions for which other technologies have limited benefit. Gennaris comprises custom headgear with camera and wireless transmitter, a vision processor unit and software, and a series of 9 x 9 mm tiles that are implanted into the brain. Each tile stimulates the primary visual cortex of the brain through an array of penetrating microelectrodes.

The scene captured by the video camera in the headgear is sent to a small patient-worn vision processor – similar in size to a smartphone - where it is processed to extract the most useful information. The processed data is transmitted wirelessly to complex circuitry within each implanted tile; this converts the data into a pattern of electrical pulses, which stimulate the brain via the microelectrode array. This stimulation creates a visual pattern from combinations of up to 473 spots of light (phosphenes) which should provide enough information for the user to navigate indoor and outdoor environments and recognise the presence of people and objects around them.

Millions around the world spend every day in darkness due to currently untreatable blindness, which can be caused by many conditions including acquired retinal disease, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration or traumatic damage to the optic nerve and/or eye. The Gennaris bionic vision system could bring sight to up to 85% of these people.

MVG is directed by Professor Arthur Lowery of the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering and managed by Dr Jeanette Pritchard. Currently supported through cornerstone donations from Marc & Eva Besen and The Alan and Elizabeth Finkel Foundation, plus funding from Monash Faculty of Engineering and IT Foundation, MVG is actively seeking additional support through philanthropic donations and commercial investments. For further information please contact:

Dr Jeanette Pritchard
Chief Operating Officer, Monash Vision Group
Email: jeanette.pritchard@monash.edu

1. Alfred Health is a leader in healthcare delivery and improvement, integrating clinical practice with research and education. MiniFAB is a privately owned company that designs, integrates and manufactures polymer micro and nano-engineered systems for many sectors, including Biotech and Health. Grey Innovation is a cutting edge, engineering technology commercialisation company with extensive experience in complex software, hardware and mechanical architectures.