The two main groups involved in bionic eye research in Australia have urged the Australian Research Council (ARC) to act quickly in distributing the AUD$50.7 million in funding for the project announced recently by the Federal Government. The ARC says it hopes to release funding rules for the competitive application process in coming months; however Professor Tony Burkitt, Head of the Melbourne-based Bionic Vision Australia, wants the announcement made within two months.
“We would hope that the ARC would move really quickly on this. It’s clearly a high- priority thing,” Prof. Burkitt said. “The other groups around the world are pressing ahead with this, so we would be very keen for them to move quickly on getting its guidelines out and undertaking the peer review process
” The ARC says it is drafting rules for funding applications and adds it may even consider splitting the funding between the two main groups, which includes the Sydney-based Australian Bionic Eye Foundation. Dr. Vivek Chowdhury, spokesman for the Australian Bionic Eye Foundation, said he does not expect the money to be available until the middle of next year. Prof. Burkitt says breaking the money into smaller chunks would be “far from optimal”, but Dr. Chowdhury believes it would be unreasonable to give all the money to one group.
Dr. Chowdhury believes groups should be given smaller amounts, with the totals based on the merits of their research. His group is already well advanced in its research and is already prepared to implant a device into a human. Prof. Burkitt’s group says it has built a bionic eye and is currently doing laboratory and efficacy test (see full story page 24).