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First US Patient Gets Wireless Retinal Device Implant

It’s aimed at restoring partial sight to patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

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This image included with UPMC’s press release gives a general idea of the PRIMA system. Credit: Pixium Vision

(PRESS RELEASE) PITTSBURGH – UPMC has implanted the first patient in the U.S. with a new wireless retinal device as part of a clinical trial aimed at restoring partial sight to patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

“Vision research has advanced dramatically in the recent past and UPMC is at the forefront of this revolution. This is the first of many such breakthroughs led by UPMC and Pitt that will benefit patients with vision loss in our community and around the world,” said José-Alain Sahel, MD, director of the UPMC Eye Center, Eye and Ear Foundation chair of ophthalmology and distinguished professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who initiated the trial at UPMC. “We are proud to be the first center in the United States to test this next generation retinal implant that could help treat an incurable disease like AMD.”

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The system, called PRIMA, is designed to restore sight in patients blinded by retinal degeneration. It consists of a 2 millimeter-by-2 millimeter, 30-micron thick miniaturized wireless photovoltaic chip placed under the damaged retina. It works in tandem with augmented reality glasses that have a built-in miniaturized camera and infrared projector.

The chip acts like a tiny artificial retina, made up of 378 tiny electrodes that convert infrared light from the glasses to electrical signals that are carried by the optic nerve to the brain. After receiving the implant, patients undergo an intensive rehabilitation program that trains their brains to understand and interpret the signals from the implant in combination with their remaining natural vision. Compared to earlier-generation implants, PRIMA is wireless and has significantly more electrodes, which allows for the transmission of more visual information.

“This is an incredibly exciting first for us at UPMC and I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Joseph Martel, MD, the implanting surgeon at the UPMC Eye Center and the Pitt School of Medicine, and the principal investigator of the trial at UPMC. “I’m grateful to our patients who have volunteered to participate in this trial, without whom this would not be possible.”

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AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people older than 50. Today, it affects approximately 14 million people in the United States, and the prevalence is expected to rise as the baby boomers age. As AMD progresses, the center of vision becomes increasingly blurry. “Atrophic” AMD, which accounts for a large proportion of advanced cases, has no curative treatment available.

The UPMC feasibility trial is running in parallel with the first-in-human trial in France, which involves five patients with advanced AMD, who now have been followed for more than a year. The 12-month results from the French study demonstrated the ability of most patients to identify sequences of letters and there were no device-related serious adverse effects.

“We are working with a great sense of urgency because the aging population of the United States, especially the western Pennsylvania region we live in, will see a significant rise in the number of patients at risk for vision loss through diseases like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and vascular eye disease, as well as earlier onset genetic conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa,” said Sahel. “This is why our physicians and researchers at UPMC and Pitt, in collaboration with our U.S. and international colleagues — especially at the Paris Vision Institute at Sorbonne University — are taking a multi-pronged effort to treat and rehabilitate patients with vision impairments.”

In March 2019, UPMC broke ground on the UPMC Vision and Rehabilitation Tower at UPMC Mercy, which when completed, will provide advanced specialty clinical care and innovative programs for visually impaired patients. It also will be the home for the vision research program at Pitt and UPMC.

The PRIMA implant was invented by Daniel Palanker, professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, and licensed and developed by Pixium Vision, a spin-off from the Paris Vision Institute. Sahel is a co-founder of Pixium and holds shares in the company.

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ISVA Appoints Jennifer Stewart and Todd Daniels to Advisory Board

Vision training and enhancement of vision skills can have on athletic performance president says.

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Jen Stewart and Todd Daniels

(PRESS RELEASE)NORTH ROYALTON, OH — The International Sports Vision Association(ISVA), an interdisciplinary group of professionals dedicated to advancing the field of vision training for athletes of all ages and levels to help them achieve peak athletic performance, announced the appointment of Jennifer Stewart, OD and Todd Daniels, MS, ATC, LMT, CSCS to its Advisory Board.

“Jen and Todd bring a wealth of successful experiences in working with and educating athletes, eye care professionals, athletic trainers, and others about the positive impact that vision training and enhancement of vision skills can have on athletic performance,” says ISVA President Alex Andrich, O.D., FCOVD. “We are excited to add their expertise to the ISVA Board.”

Dr. Jennifer Stewart is a partner at Norwalk Eye Care and also the co-founder and chief optometric officer at Performance 20/20, a practice specializing in sports and performance vision. Dr. Stewart has had the opportunity to work with athletes from the NHL, NFL, and NBA, as well as professional athletes in squash, lacrosse and figure skating. She regularly consults with optometrists and practice owners about bringing sports vision and performance to their practice.

Athletic trainers are often described as the “hub of the wheel” in the sports medicine team working with athletes. “They are in constant communication with athletes, coaches, physicians, consultants, strength and conditioning staff, parents, teachers, and administrators and an important partner for any eye care professional looking to build or enhance their sports vision practice,” notes Aldrich.

Todd Daniels is a certified athletic trainer, strength and conditioning specialist, and massage therapist with over 20 years of experience working with elite athletes. Currently, he is an athletic trainer for Banner University Medical Group in Tucson, Arizona where he specializes in concussion management and provides clinical support for the University of Arizona Athletic Department and FC Tucson professional soccer team. He has international experience with the United States Ski Team and spent 11 years working with professional hockey players in the NHL, AHL, and WHL and has also worked with the 2002 and 2005 NCAA Division 1 women’s soccer champions, University of Portland; and the US Men’s and Women’s National Soccer Teams. He has continued to advance sports vision in the athletic training community by serving as the official Liaison of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Board of Directors to the American Optometric Association (AOA) and was awarded the Eagle Award in 2014 from the AOA Sports Vision Section.

For further information, visit www.sportsvision.pro.

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Press Releases

Harris Williams Advises EyeCare Partners on its Sale to Partners Group

This adds to the firm’s successful track record says managing director.

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(PRESS RELEASE) RICHMOND, VA – Harris Williams, a global investment bank specializing in M&A advisory services, announces that it served as an advisor to EyeCare Partners, LLC (ECP) in conjunction with its sale to Partners Group, a global private markets investment manager, which invested in the business on behalf of its clients. ECP, a portfolio company of FFL Partners (FFL), is a leading provider of medical eye care services in the U.S. The engagement was led by Andy Dixon, James Clark and Cheairs Porter of the Harris Williams HealthcareHarris Williams Advises EyeCare Partners, LLC on its Sale to Partners Group
& Life Sciences (HCLS) Group.

“This transaction adds to our firm’s successful track record of working with leading eye care providers,” said Andy Dixon, a managing director at Harris Williams. “We look forward to following ECP’s next chapter with Partners Group.”

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Press Releases

Learn How to Leave Vision Plans Behind and Stay Profitable

The event provides guidance for Optometrists who want to reduce their reliance on low margin, high maintenance Vision Plans.

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(PRESS RELEASE) ONEONTA, NY — Cleinman Performance Partners (CPP), the nation’s leading Optometry business development consultancy for larger practices, has announced that its highly successful conference, “Exiting Vision Plans…Profitably” will be held on two upcoming dates. The event provides guidance for Optometrists who want to reduce their reliance on low margin, high maintenance Vision Plans.

“Exiting Vision Plans…Profitably!” is part of Cleinman Performance Partners’ unique Business of Eyecare Forum conference series. The all-day events will be held on Tuesday, April 21st in Phoenix, Arizona and May 12th in Orlando, Florida. This deep-dive meeting will feature speakers with broad knowledge of Vision Plan management strategies.

“Many Optometrists have a love–hate relationship with Vision Plans,” says Cleinman Performance Partners’ founder Alan Cleinman. “What they lack is independent, knowledgeable resources to help them decide how to reduce or eliminate their dependence on deep-discount Vision Plans. Exiting Vision Plans…Profitably! brings together those resources,” he said.

Conference attendees will hear from a cadre of highly experienced speakers who will discuss:

  • How to separate one’s practice from the competition
  • How to understand vision plan economics and financial impact
  • How to attract more self-pay patients
  • How to maximize reimbursements
  • How to plan an exit from vision plans… and much more

“I attended the Exiting Vision Plans…Profitably! Conference and it gave me the tools and methods to analyze what VCPs were specifically doing to our practice and what our practice would likely look like without them. I highly recommend that you check it out,” stated Dr. Andrew Neukirch of Illinois’ Carillon Visioncare.

The conference provides strategies and tactics on how to exit vision plans as well as how to maximize economic opportunity while within plans.

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