After returning from space missions, some astronauts experience eye problems and changes to their vision. That's why the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) and the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine launched the Vision for Mars Challenge to help identify and advance medical technologies for ocular health in space through collaboration and funding support.
The Industry Forum for the NSBRI initiated the Challenge with a conference in Houston today after first announcing the initiative last month at the Ophthalmology Innovation Summit (OIS) in Chicago.
To help NASA better understand this new syndrome, today's conference brought together distinguished clinical and business leaders within the ophthalmology sector to help identify cutting-edge, space-appropriate diagnostic approaches and devices.
Dr. Tim Stout, professor and chair of ophthalmology at Baylor said, "We don't understand the effects of reduced gravity on the optic nerve. However, we have some evidence that long term spaceflight can result in visual field defects in astronauts. This conference is a great step toward bringing the ophthalmologists and scientists needed to answer these questions to the same table."
"NASA needs these next-generation clinical diagnostic and research-enabling technologies to provide critical information about ocular health during spaceflight. These technologies must be small, robust and easy to use by non-experts," said Dr. Dorit Donoviel, NSBRI's Deputy Chief Scientist and Industry Forum Lead. "This is an excellent opportunity for small US-based companies to receive funding and accelerate the development of their products."
The Vision for Mars Challenge leverages an ongoing successful Industry Forum initiative called Space Medical and Related Technologies Commercialization Assistance Program or (SMARTCAP,) which identifies and funds small U.S.-based companies developing disruptive medical technologies. At least three SMARTCAP grants in this cycle will be awarded to companies with innovative ophthalmology products.
Key Dates for the Vision for Mars Plan: