FARMINGTON, Conn., June 1, 2020 — LambdaVision, an innovative biotechnology company developing a novel treatment to help patients regain sight, has been selected by NASA for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award, worth $750,000 over two years. With the continued support of NASA, LambdaVision will advance the development of its protein-based artificial retina, and look to explore how its production process in microgravity can be utilized for additional biomedical and technology applications across a number of diverse industries. This award complements a recent $5M NASA Commercialization Award received by LambdaVision and its partner, Space Tango, for continued work on the International Space Station (ISS) to establish pilot-scale production systems for artificial retina and other future biomedical applications. LambdaVision believes these awards serve as further validation of the technology readiness and commercial potential of the advanced production process in microgravity.
“Throughout my 40-year career, I have explored the potential of using light-activated proteins in applications that include information processing, energy production, and visual restoration. My colleagues and I are very grateful to have the support and peer validation from the experts at NASA, and we are eager to use our discoveries to further translate our research into products that benefit mankind,” stated LambdaVision Founder Robert R. Birge, PhD, Harold S. Schwenk Sr. Distinguished Chair Emeritus at the University of Connecticut.
Leveraging the new funding, LambdaVision will continue to refine the production process for the protein-based artificial retina on the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. The award will allow LambdaVision to complete a production prototype with optimized parameters for implementation in microgravity, and will establish quality control and activity measurements that are essential for further preclinical studies. These manufacturing advancements will allow the company to further utilize Dr. Birge’s research as a foundation for additional commercial technologies, including photovoltaic cells, chemical sensors, and optical memories.
“While we remain focused on our mission of restoring sight for patients with retinal diseases, we appreciate the opportunity to explore how our production process could expand our pipeline, and are truly honored to be able to investigate the benefits of microgravity for various industries with this award from NASA,” said Jordan Greco, PhD, chief scientific officer, LambdaVision.
The artificial retina is produced through a patented layer-by-layer production process that ensures the artificial retina is dense enough to absorb appropriate amounts of light. While LambdaVision’s artificial retina has been developed in labs on Earth, producing the artificial retina in low-Earth orbit (LEO) improves the homogeneity of the alternating protein and polymer layers, resulting in increased stability, performance, and optical quality of the multi-layer system. These improvements could reduce the amount of materials required to produce the artificial retina, lower costs, accelerate production time for future preclinical and clinical efforts, and establish parameters for additional technology applications.
LambdaVision’s investigational artificial retina has the potential to restore meaningful vision for patients who are blind or have lost significant sight due to advanced retinitis pigmentosa (RP), and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness for adults over 55 years old.
Aiming to stimulate innovation and inspire entrepreneurial spirit within research and development, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a highly-competitive award program that enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides incentive for commercialization. Applications undergo a vigorous peer-review process, which involves both NASA and non-NASA subject matter experts, to assess and validate the technology readiness and commercialization potential.
LambdaVision is developing a protein-based artificial retina to restore meaningful vision for the millions of patients blinded by retinal degenerative diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The patent-protected artificial retina technology developed by LambdaVision uses photoactive proteins to naturally mimic the light-absorbing properties of human photoreceptor cells and activate neuroreceptors still present in degenerated retinas of blind patients. Founded as part of the UConn Technology Incubator Program, LambdaVision along with its research partners, have secured over $8.0 million to date in state and federal funding. To learn more, visit www.lambdavision.com.
About Space Tango
Space Tango provides improved access to microgravity through their Open Orbit platform for research and commercial manufacturing applications that benefit life on Earth. The Company believes the microgravity environment is a new frontier for discovery and innovation. Space Tango is focused on expanding the global market 250 miles up in low Earth orbit and envisions a future where the next important breakthroughs in both healthcare and technology will occur off the planet. Recognized for their expertise in microgravity design and operations, Space Tango believes that by exploring with industry and academia, we can improve life on Earth and inspire the next generation to continue to expand the horizon of this new frontier. For more information, visit www.spacetango.com.