10:20am Wednesday 16 October 2019

SOURCE ALERT: FDA panel recommends approval of a device that helps blind people see

Dr. Mark Humayun is available to speak to reporters this week about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Ophthalmic Devices Advisory Panel’s recommendation for approval of the Argus II retinal prosthesis system on Friday. Professor of Ophthalmology at the Keck Medical School of USC, Dr. Humayun helped lead the team that designed the Argus II, which is on track to become the first retinal prosthesis approved for use in the United States.

The Argus II restores some visual capabilities for patients whose blindness is caused by RP, or Retinitis Pigmentosa. RP is an inherited retinal degenerative disease that affects about 100,000 people in the U.S.

The system uses a camera mounted on special glasses that sends a signal to an electronic receiver with 60 electrodes that is implanted inside the eye. The receiver sends signals to the retina that travel through the optic nerve to the brain where they can be interpreted as a visual picture. The researchers hope that one day the device can be improved to also help individuals with age-related macular degeneration, a similar but far more common disease.

“We’re excited and thrilled to have this positive outcome from the FDA panel and we will be happy to see this device eventually get to patients for whom there has been no treatment until now,” said Dr. Humayun, who is also the associate director of research at the Doheny Retina Institute at USC.

The Argus II was approved for use in Europe last year.  It was implanted in 30 patients in a clinical trial that began in 2007. Dr. Humayun has performed many of the surgeries to implant the device.

Dr. Humayun is temporarily out of the country but will be available to correspond by email. On Wednesday, he will return to his office and will be available for telephone interviews. Reporters may contact him via Robert Perkins at perkinsr@usc.edu or (213) 740-9226.

NOTE: The Argus II is manufactured by they Sylmar-based company Second Sight. Funding for the development of the device came from the National Eye Institute, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation and private investment. More information about the device is available on the Second Sight website here.

CONTACT: Robert Perkins at perkinsr@usc.edu or (213) 740-9226.

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