President Obama yesterday awarded Mark Humayun, MD, PhD, with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for developing the world's first artificial retinal prosthesis, the Argus II.
Inspired by his grandmother who lost her vision to diabetes, Dr. Humayun became an ophthalmologist hoping to someday save others from blindness. After 25 years of research and development, he helped create the Argus II, which is successfully restoring useful vision to patients suffering from diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.
The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented by U.S. presidents to recognize individuals, teams, divisions and companies for innovations that contribute to the nation's economic, environmental and social well-being.
Dr. Humayun, co-director of the University of Southern California Roski Eye Institute and director of the USC Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics, describes the technology in this AAO 2012 video interview, just before the Argus II gained FDA approval in the United States in 2013.
In presenting Dr. Humayan with the award, President Obama said, “he says the moment when he witnessed someone seeing light and shapes, someone experiencing sight for the first time in decades, have been some of the happiest and most rewarding of his professional career." Watch the presentation in this clip from CSPAN.
"I'm honored to receive this award," Dr. Humayun said. "Medical breakthroughs like the ARGUS II come after long periods of research and development and I'm grateful to be surrounded by teams of very talented individuals. This is a dynamic time in ophthalmology with many exciting prospects for future innovations that will benefit patients. I feel fortunate to be a part of it."
Dr. Humayun joins an impressive list of past recipients, including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, as well as inventors across a spectrum of industries such as automotive, aviation, Internet, agriculture, satellite, wireless, biotechnology, petroleum and others.
"Dr. Mark Humayun is a gifted clinician and a profoundly impactful investigator. His sustained pursuit of one of the Holy Grails of ophthalmology—to generate a sense of vision where none naturally exists—has changed forever our options in managing some forms of retinal blindness," said David W. Parke, II, MD, CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "The profession is proud of his accomplishments and delighted that they have been nationally recognized and celebrated.”
The journal Ophthalmology published 3-year data on 30 patients implanted with the Argus II in August 2015. The device was shown stable and reliable, and patients performed significantly better on all visual tests and assessments when the system was turned on compared to when it was turned off.
In this video interview from AAO 2015, Drs. Rajiv Anand and J. Fernando Arevalo discuss their experience implanting the Argus II, including the importance of preoperative education.
And in this surgical video from AAO 2014, Dr. Arevalo and Dr. Saba Al Rashaed demonstrate the implantation of the Argus II in 5 patients presenting with an advanced form of retinitis pigmentosa.