Biotech company, LambdaVision has received a US$5 million NASA award to further advance development of an artificial retina to help patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) regain sight. Along with Space Tango, the company will also explore the benefits of microgravity for producing an artificial retina on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory located in low-Earth orbit (LEO).
LambdaVision will use proteins similar to the visual pigment, rhodopsin, to develop a protein-based artificial retina that naturally mimics the light-absorbing properties of human photoreceptors, capable of activating the degenerative retinas of blind patients. It is believed that production in microgravity may reduce the amount of materials required to produce the artificial retina, lower costs, and accelerate production time for future preclinical and clinical efforts.
Twyman Clements, Space Tango co-founder and chief executive officer, said “as we explore the seemingly immense ways in which microgravity can benefit the development and production of a wide range of products, our long-term collaboration with LambdaVision continues to provide us with valuable learnings that might one day help some patients regain sight and may also lead to other important production discoveries”.
The award will cover a series of flights to the ISS over three years to evaluate and improve on-orbit production processes, and to produce artificial retinas that will then be evaluated on Earth for the potential to restore vision to patients suffering from retinal degenerative diseases.
Once validated, this process could also provide the foundation for a number of products that could be manufactured in space with clinical benefit to patients and process improvement across technology industries on Earth.