Second Sight Agrees to Merger to Maintain Retinal and Cortical Prostheses Programs
Eye On the Cure Research News
Company has been unable to meet revenue goals for the Argus II®
Second Sight Medical Products, developer of the FDA-approved Argus II retinal prosthesis for restoring some vision to people with retinitis pigmentosa, has agreed to a merger with Nano Precision Medicine, a developer of medical implants.
Revenue shortfalls exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic led to significant curtailment of Second Sight’s operations and the need for a merger or additional financial support.
In addition to planning limited continued support for Argus II users, Second Sight also is continuing the clinical trial for its Orion® Cortical Prosthesis System, a device which connects to the visual cortex for restoring some vision to people with a broad range of conditions causing blindness. The Orion trial is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
FDA-approved in 2013 under a humanitarian device exemption, the Argus II is a tiny implant including an electronics package and electrode array implanted adjacent to the recipient’s retina. The system includes a video camera embedded in a pair of glasses. Images from the camera are routed through a video processing unit (VPU) and then sent to the implant. The implant stimulates retinal cells to produce visual information that’s routed to the visual cortex via the patient’s own neural system. The Argus II system can enable users with no vision or virtually no vision (e.g., no light or bare light perception) to see shapes, outlines of objects, and movement, and perform simple visual tasks. The Foundation Fighting Blindness funded lab research for an early generation of the Argus system.
Scott Dunbar, Second Sight’s acting chief executive officer, acknowledges that downsizing from 120+ employees to 12 by May 2020 had made it difficult for the company to provide the same, previous level of support to implanting centers and users.
”We have continued to provide support to the best of our ability to our Argus II users,” says Dunbar. “Users can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. If a user’s glasses or VPU become damaged, they can contact their implanting center to report the problem. Replacements from our limited supplies will be made on a case-by-case basis.”
Over the last 24 years, Second Sight invested more $300 million in the development, commercialization, and user support of visual prostheses to provide a useful form of artificial vision for people who are blind. Total revenues generated by the Argus II were under $32 million over a period of seven years. Second Sight decided not to continue to manufacture and implant the Argus II in May 2019.
“We sincerely hope that with the proposed merger, a greater period of stability and clarity will be forthcoming,” says Dunbar.