U research results in new start-up company

Mechanical engineering professor Art Erdman, professor of ophthalmology Timothy Olsen, and mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate Paul Loftness have developed a surgical procedure and corresponding technology for treating macular degeneration, a serious disease of the human eye that affects 10 million Americans.

At its July 12 meeting the University of Minnesota Board of Regents authorized a technology licensing agreement in which the University will acquire controlling interest in a start-up licensee, Macular Regeneration, Inc., which will market the invention.

“Although this kind of involvement in a start-up company is a relatively common practice for most research universities, it is a first for us,” said Tim Mulcahy, the University’s vice president for research. “This is a promising technology and a promising enterprise for the University of Minnesota.”

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in adults over age 55. The progressive disease causes a deterioration of the macula, the central area of the retina whose light-sensitive cells control the ability to see fine detail and color. Although peripheral vision remains intact, the severe loss of central vision is devastating to quality of life, making it impossible to read, watch television, recognize faces and colors, drive a car, and do detail work.

The University technology uses a novel method and device to address the underlying problems that are believed to cause the loss of central vision. The three researchers began working on the project in 2001 and a significant amount of animal and human cadaver eye work led them to the current invention. Details of the technology, product, and method have not been released because the University is still in the process of securing a patent.

Holder of more than 30 patents himself, Erdman has applied his expertise to areas as varied as the mechanics of high-performance sports, the design of dental crowns, and the development of software for mechanical design and analysis.

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