Tackling blindness with nanotechnology

Tackling blindness with nanotechnology

To tackle blindness caused by open angle glaucoma, Brandon Kao, Rui Jing Jiang, and Adarsh Battu came up with Visiplate, a nanoscale ocular implant that shunts away excess fluid.

Avisi Technologies, the startup established by 2017 Y-Prize winners Visiplate, is the recipient of the 2018 President’s Innovation Prize.

Along with the President’s Engagement Prize, the Innovation Prize provides $100,000 in funding for Penn seniors “to design and undertake post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting difference in the world.”

VisiPlate previously earned $10,000 in the 2017 Y-Prize, which tasked participants with applying innovations developed in the Singh Center for Nanotechnology. Penn Today’s Ali Sundermier described their process:

During the Y-Prize contest, the team found themselves most inspired by nanoscale-thin sheets developed in the lab of Igor Bargatin, the Class of 1965 Term Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. The 100-nanometer-thin sheets — thousands of times thinner than aluminum foil — have a corrugated hexagonal structure that allows them to maintain their shape under physical stress, and are the only films of this thickness that can be manually handled.

Each student’s unique perspective, such as Jiang’s experience working in pharmaceutical companies, Kao’s knowledge of materials science engineering, and Battu’s understanding of need-finding through past startup experience, allowed them to take a very research-focused view to leverage this novel nanotechnology in the human body.

“We asked ourselves where the smallest implants in the body are right now,” Jiang says. “And the answer was the eye and the ear. Vision is such a huge component of quality of life and it’s something that we wanted to help improve. We discovered that the two leading causes of blindness in the world are cataracts and glaucoma, but within cataracts there are already a lot of really amazing solutions. We thought we could have a bigger impact by treating glaucoma.”

Continue reading at Penn Today.