Sigenics, Inc. receives $1M NIH grant to engineer technology for visual prosthesis system

Sigenics, Inc. has received a $1M award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop electronics technology that is key to a brain-based visual prosthesis system. The Sigenics award is part of an $11.8 million grant to Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) funded by the White House BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). The project’s goal is to test an artificial vision system that may provide visual perception to people with blindness.

The intracortical visual prosthesis (ICVP) system will translate images, captured by a glasses-mounted camera, into patterns of electrical stimulation and wirelessly deliver them to the visual cortex of the brain. A group of miniature 16-channel implantable stimulator modules, called wireless-floating-microelectrode-arrays (WFMA), that use Sigenics-designed wireless electronic chips will deliver the patterned electrical stimulation to the user’s brain through ultraminiature needle-like electrodes; about five of the electrode tips could be placed at the end of a human hair. Sigenics has also developed the non-implanted hardware that will process the camera image and prepare it for communication with the brain.

Mr. Glenn DeMichele and Dr. Douglas Kerns, Sigenics’ Director of Engineering and Chief Technology Officer respectively, have been working with IIT for over 20 years toward the clinical deployment of this technology.  Sigenics’ CEO, Dr. Philip Troyk, is a professor of biomedical engineering at IIT, and is principal investigator for the NIH project.

“This innovative project is the beginning of a bright future, where technology is applied in novel ways to treat disability and disease,” said DeMichele. “Our company is very excited and honored to be part of the exceptional team doing this pioneering work.”

The ICVP project is supported by the National Institute Of Neurological Disorders And Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UG3NS09555. The content here is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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