The winners of Penn’s 5th annual Y-Prize Competition, Avisi Technologies, have secured a $225,000 National Science Foundation grant to continue developing their glaucoma treatment, according to a Philadelphia Business Journal report.
Glaucoma causes excess fluid to build up in the eye, putting pressure on the optic nerve that can eventually lead to irreversible vision loss. Avisi’s implant, called VisiPlate, is designed to address this problem by diverting this built-up fluid into surrounding tissues where it can be safely reabsorbed by the body.
The device is based on an ultrathin material developed in Professor Igor Bargatin’s lab at Penn Engineering. It’s composed of alumina, a highly biocompatible material commonly used in joint replacement surgeries, which reduces the risk of rejection by the body. While existing glaucoma implants often cause discomfort and scarring that limit their long-term success, Visiplate’s nanoscale profile and multichannel design make it minimally invasive and less prone to clogging.
The NSF grant is only the most recent financial vote of confidence the team has received for their idea. Among other prizes and accelerator memberships, the team followed their Y-Prize win in 2017 by by winning the 2018 Penn President’s Innovation prize, which provided a $100,000 grant, a $50,000 living stipend per team member, and a yearlong residency at the Pennovation Center. Rui Jing Jiang, Avisi’s co-founder and CEO, called the NSF grant “a strong validation of VisiPlate’s potential.”
Listen to Avisi CEO Rui Jing Jiang describe her team’s revolutionary glaucoma treatment on this episode of Launch Pad, first broadcast on on Sirius XM Channel 132, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Avisi won both 3rd Prize and the Gloeckner Undergraduate Award in the 2018 Penn Wharton Startup Challenge on April 27, 2018.