In 2010, Monash Vision Group applied for and received Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for a unique proposal to go ‘direct to the brain’, specifically to stimulate the brain’s cortex with electrical currents to produce the sensation of light (phosphenes). Most other groups around the world concentrated on stimulating the retina, rather than the brain.
This funding brought together key disciplines within Monash University, along with partners Grey Innovation, miniFAB, and Alfred Health. Together, we developed a full system, including camera system, vision processing algorithms, wireless transmission and miniaturised electronics within implant tiles, each supplying stimulation via 43 electrodes. The funding was complemented by grants from the NHMRC for clinical trials, MTPConnect for manufacturing process development, and generous funding from Dr Marc Besen AC and Dr Eva Besen AO and the Alan and Elizabeth Finkel Foundation.
Support has also been provided by Monash University and the Monash Engineering Foundation.
The years after the initial funding saw the development of safety studies for the implants, and also implantation techniques, including surgical techniques. Developing the manufacturing processes towards maturity, to increase yield and product lifetime was also a focus.
We thank those who have contributed and fostered our neurobionics work over this journey.