An Australian consortium that has been developing their very first successful bionic eye loses its federal grant funding at the end of 2013 and it is still at least three years away from being able to raise funds from private investors for commercial funding. Only last week the consortium announced it had successfully carried out an implant. Australia's attempt to be a viable competitor in the bionic eye market is therefore uncertain as neither side of federal politics will fund there technology at the most vital phase of development.
Senior government officers have been briefed and a spokesman had reported that they appeared promising however governments budget policies mean it is an unstable time to be requesting more funding . The government so far has failed to comment on the position of the project.
The consortium has been developing their bionic eye implant from inception in 2009. The start-up was from a $42 million federal research grant.
There is significant risk of jobs being lost if there is not new funding secured soon.
The research milestone was met last week when Dianne Ashworth became the recipient of the successful bionic eye implant. It was attached to the back of her left eye and it has been reported that she can now her see crude shapes and flashes of light. Her first sight in 20 years.
The researchers will now work with her and hopefully discover how to stimulate the eyes retina to provide useful artificial vision. Long term it is hopes that the implant will eventually be linked to an external camera-like device.
The implant contains 24 electrodes but the study wants to first test a device with 1000 electrodes before they attempt to commercialise their technology.
An american supplier has already been granted a licence to sell its bionic eye, the Argus II, and receives its backing from US biomedical engineering tycoon Alfred Mann.