Bionic Eye Technologies, Inc. and Visus Technology, Inc. were founded in 2012 to commercialize the research of the Boston Retinal Implant Project (BRIP). The co-founders of the BRIP also are founders of Bionic Eye and Visus, and the co-founders serve either on the Board of Directors or the Scientific Advisory Board of both companies. The business and legal leaders of Visus Technology, Inc. are described below.
Visus has developed a large suite of software applications ported onto a common platform to assist the visually impaired through “sensory substitution.” The field of sensory substitution is not new, but the opportunity to make signficant improvements with sensory substitution devices has largely not been successful, either because of limitations in technology or limitations in the ability to transfer relevant information to blind patients by using tactile or auditory stimulation (hence the term “sensory substitution,” in which visual sensory information is communicated to a blind patient via some other sense). Basically, the goal of Visus is to substantially upgrade the quality of information available to blind patients, especially when they are outside of their homes, using an advanced device that is wearable, cosmetically-acceptable, and portable, and which provides visually-relevant information to a user in real-time. This device is designed to be assistive, and not necessarily to replace any other strategy that a patient may be using, such as a white cane.
The portable sensory substitution device can used alone, or it may be used as the front-end driver for the retinal prothesis, which is the device that is being developed by Bionic Eye Technologies. As a front-end driver, the portable device will provide via wireless communication electrical power and details of the visual scene to the retinal prosthesis, which is implanted around the eye.
Bionic Eye is developing a retinal prosthesis that is designed to be used in the sub-retinal space. This approach offers advantages over the competing epiretinal devices in that our approach seems to provide reduced risk of eye infection, reduced risk of erosion through the delicate tissues that cover the front surface of the eye (i.e. the conjunctiva), and the ability to place our stimulating electrodes closer to the retinal nerve cells, which should improve the safety of the device and also enhance the visual outcome.
Lead product information:
The corporate leadership and advisory board of Visus Technology, Inc. is available at:
Richard Birney advises clients in the areas of enterprise technology, cloud initiatives, medical devices, and semiconductors. He is a Senior Advisor to Spurrier Capital Partners and Genesis Partners (a VC in Israel), and leads the Willow Lake Investment and Advisory Group. His passion is to help young companies create sound business models and growth strategies.
Richard was formerly VP Corporate Development at IBM, with responsibility for strategic investments and growth initiatives. Richard had a distinguished career with IBM spanning 36 years, which included 16 years of investment experience, 20 years of operational experience in various product lines, and broad international experience. Over the last decade at IBM, Richard led a worldwide team to identify companies for strategic partnership or acquisition by IBM business units; directed growth initiatives and strategies in partnership with the private equity and venture capital industry; and developed growth initiatives in emerging geographies and technologies. Richard also advised Fortune 500 companies on the IBM M&A processes. Among his many accomplishments for IBM, Richard developed a fund investing strategy that delivered a high (>30%) internal rate of return. He also developed an investment strategy in emerging countries including China, India, Israel, Latin America and Eastern Europe. He managed over $500 million in investments around the world and received industry recognition for developing best practices and patents in M&A processes. Richard developed strategies for IBM to compete by using new technologies in mobile services, financial services, networking, cloud computing, clean technologies and semiconductor manufacturing. Richard is also the inventor of a number of advancements in computing technology, holding several patents with many foreign filings (over 70 total filings). Richard was a frequent speaker at global investment conferences.
Richard served as a White House Fellow in 1981-82 and was selected as “Outstanding Young Engineer “ by Eta Kappa Nu in 1978. He has an MSEE from the University of Texas.
Richard serves on the Board of Directors of Ormet Technologies, and two non- profit organizations. One provides a camp for inner city children and the other works with children and their families where a parent has a life threatening disease.
Prof. Wyatt serves on the Board of Directors for Bionic Eye Technologies, Inc., and Dr. Rizzo serves as an ex-officio (non-voting) member. The non-voting status is required to conform with Harvard Medical conflict-of-interest policy.
Joseph Rizzo is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana and a graduate of Louisiana State University and Louisiana State University Medical School in New Orleans, where he received the "Dean's Award" in recognition of outstanding leadership and performance. He completed an internship in Adult Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center, followed by a Neurology residency at Tufts University - New England Medical Center and then an Ophthalmology residency at Boston University. He then performed a clinical fellowship in Neuro-Ophthalmology under Dr. Simmons Lessell in the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Dr. Rizzo is Board-Certified both in Ophthalmology and Neurology. Following completion of clinical training Dr. Rizzo joined the full-time academic faculty at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and received a five-year Physician Training Award from the National Institutes of Health. His basic laboratory training was under the supervision of his research mentor, Richard Masland, Ph.D.
Dr. Rizzo initiated the Retinal Implant Project in 1988 and since then he has divided his professional time equally between the evaluation of patients with Neuro-Ophthalmologic disease and the co-direction of the research endeavors of the Boston Retinal Implant Project.
Dr. Rizzo will serve as an ex-officio (non-voting) member of the Board of Directors of Visus Technology. The non-voting status is required to conform with Harvard Medical conflict-of-interest policy.
John Wyatt heads the MIT engineering team for the Boston Retinal Implant Project, where he has overseen the overall development and circuit design of four generations of the implant device. Generation five, for human implantation, is due in the third quarter of 2012. He received his B.S. from MIT (1968), M.S. from Princeton (1972) and Ph.D. from U.C. Berkekey (1979). He did his first research on the retina while at Berkeley, in the lab of Professor Frank Werblin. Professor Wyatt’s doctoral dissertation included a study of how forces and flows in circuits could be used to model biological processes, and he developed this work further during his post-doctoral work at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV). MIT recruited him from MCV, and he joined MIT’s faculty in Electrical Engineering in 1979. MIT awarded him tenure in 1985. His early work at MIT focused on circuit theory, especially its application to integrated circuits, and machine vision, particularly focal plane image processing. He and Dr. Rizzo founded the Boston Retinal Implant Project in 1988, and much of his subsequent work has focused on the development and fabrication of an implant device for the eye. He has done consulting for numerous technology and financial institutions, as well as for DARPA. He has published numerous articles and received 11 U.S. patents. In 1998 the Retinitis Pigmentosa International Foundation awarded him the Jules Stein Living Tribute Award. He grew up in Nashville, TN.
Prof. Wyatt will serve on the Board of Directors of Visus Technology.
Dr. Douglas B. Shire received the B.S. degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, in 1984, and the Ph.D. degree from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, in 1989, both in Electrical Engineering. He then worked with Hewlett Packard, Optoelectronics Division, and in 1994, he rejoined Cornell as a postdoctoral associate, and is now a Visiting Scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Syracuse University. In 1997, he joined the Boston Retinal Implant group, where he developed microfabrication processes for electrode arrays as a member of the VA CIVR. Since 2006, he has served as the project’s Engineering Manager.
Dr. Shire is a member of Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, IEEE EMBS, and ARVO.
Dr. Kelly received the S.B., M.Eng., and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996, 1998, and 2003, respectively. He joined the project in 1996 and developed a portable stimulator for human trials for his masters and a novel low-power neural stimulator chip for his doctorate. He now serves as a Research Biomedical Engineer with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and heads up the design and testing of the electrical systems in the retinal implant. Dr. Kelly’s areas of interest include neural stimulator design, the electrode/tissue interface, wireless power transmission, and power management.