Professor Anthony Burkitt

2019 Victoria Prize for Science & Innovation

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Professor Anthony Burkitt has been awarded the 2019 Victoria Prize in recognition of his work to develop a bionic eye and provide artificial vision to visually impaired people who could previously see. 

 

 
2012 an Australian Laureate Fellowship.
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is the major cause of inherited blindness, affecting 1 in 4000 people in the Western world, and as many as 1 in 400 in Southern India and parts of China. Usually diagnosed in early adulthood, there is no known effective treatment for this debilitating condition. 

The bionic eye developed by Professor Burkitt’s team can restore a sense of vision using a suprachoroidal retinal implant and an external camera. It offers significant hope for those affected with RP.  Using cutting edge surgical techniques developed in Victoria, an electrode array is placed close behind the retina of the eye. It uses electrical stimulation to directly activate the surviving nerves in the patient’s eye, which then carry the nerve signals to the vision processing centres of the brain, restoring a sense of vision.

A world leader in medical bionics and computational neuroscience, Professor Burkitt has advanced the world’s understanding of how the brain works to provide therapeutic applications for patients with sensory or brain disorders. As Director of Bionic Vision Australia, Professor Burkitt led a cross-disciplinary team of researchers including clinicians, surgeons, neuroscientists, electrical engineers, biomedical engineers, and materials scientists to develop the bionic eye.

He continues to work on a range of innovative technologies that will enhance the performance of the bionic eye for patients. Additionally, his research has stimulated other exciting innovations. He was a member of the team that recently pioneered the new field of endovascular bionics through the development of a ground-breaking form of brain-computer interface for neurological disorders such as severe spinal cord injury. He has also developed devices for monitoring and controlling epilepsy through the recording of brain signals associated with seizures and the use of electrical stimulation for seizure abatement. His research achievements have already led to important real-world applications, and their ongoing development and commercialisation continues to support Melbourne’s international leadership in medical bionics and bring academic and commercial progress to this fast-developing field.

Professor Burkitt is Chair of Bio-Signals and Bio-Systems at the University of Melbourne and Principal Honorary Research Fellow at The Bionics Institute.

Watch the video of Professor Burkitt here.