University of Southern California Department of Biomedical Engineering The USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering USC


     NSFs Directorate for Engineering has supported Humayun and his collaborators in this research and development effort through three of its Divisions. Beginning in 1995, the Bioengineering and Environmental Systems (BES) Division directly sponsored the work on development of the intraocular camera and the hermetic packaging for the implantable system. The Electrical and Communication Systems (ECS) Division funded work on the electrical interconnections between components. Beginning in 2003, the Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) Division has supported the realization of the retinal prosthesis through the BMES ERC. This involves multidisciplinary research. Contributions of researchers in fields ranging from biomedical engineering to electrical engineering to computer science to medicine were crucial to the success of this effort.


     In November 2003, the DOE awarded a $6 million grant to the USC scientists to create the Bioelectronic Research Laboratory (BRL). The BRL will support basic research to determine the design requirements of a retinal prosthesis and will centralize evaluation of the safety and efficacy of prosthesis components developed at DOE national laboratories across the country. Both the BMES ERC and the BRL are the first entities of their kind to be established in the United States.


     W. M. Keck Foundation awarded the USC Eye Institute $3 million in 2004 for the expansion of the USC Vision Research Center (DVRC). The renovated facility houses the administrative offices and laboratories for the Biomimetic MicroElectronics Systems Engineering Research Center (BMES ERC) established by the National Science Foundation in 2003 to develop electronic devices to mimic or replace damaged or diseased systems in the human body. In addition, this new facility serves as the central bioelectronic test laboratory for a consortium assembled by the Department of Energy (DOE) that focuses on the development of an “artificial retina.” As part of the key expansions, the vivarium facility at the DVRC is increased from 8,000 to 16,462 square feet.



     Second Sight, located in Sylmar, California, was founded in 1998 to create a retinal prosthesis to provide sight to patients blinded from outer retinal degenerations, such as Retinitis Pigmentosa. Through dedication and innovation, Second Sight's mission is to develop, manufacture and market implantable visual prosthetics to enable blind individuals to achieve greater independence. Second Sight is a privately held company and receives substantial financial support from the U.S. federal government.

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