President Obama honors USC Eye Institute’s Dr. Mark Humayun in White House ceremony

USC’s Dr. Mark Humayun received the nation’s highest honor for achievement in advancing the fields of science and technology from President Barack Obama in a televised ceremony at the White House on May 19, 2016.

In presenting Humayun with the National Medal of Technology, President Obama spoke about how Humayun immigrated to the United States at age 9 with his family and began studying to become an ophthalmologist after his diabetic grandmother lost her vision. That would lead to Humayan helping to develop the Argus II, a “bionic eye” to help restore vision in patients who have been blind for up to 50 years.

“He says the moment when he witnessed someone seeing light and shapes, someone experiencing the miracle of sight for the first time in decades — those moments have been some of the happiest and most rewarding of his professional career,” said the President. For the full remarks at the ceremony, see the White House release.

Dr. Humayun, an ophthalmology expert with a special focus on nanotechnology and the retina, is a university professor with joint appointments at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and is an ophthalmologist at USC Roski Eye Institute.

He helped to create the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis system, a medical innovation developed at USC, which is the first FDA-approved implanted device to re-establish sight in blind patients, and allows previously blind patients the ability to perceive images and movement. The innovation was manufactured by the company Second Sight Medical Products, Inc. and is the result of a close collaboration by Keck School of Medicine of USC, the USC Eye Institute and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. The USC Stevens Center for Innovation completed a patent license agreement for the technology with Second Sight to assist with commercializing the technology outside of the university.

The Argus II system includes a small video camera mounted on a pair of eyeglasses, a video processing unit that transforms images from the camera into wirelessly-transmitted electronic signals, and an implanted retinal prosthesis (artificial retina) to stimulate visual neurons. Last fall, it was announced that a USC Eye Institute patient with a genetic condition that causes vision loss was the first person in the world to receive retinal implants in both eyes.

Humayun has directed USC’s Engineering Research Center Biomimetic Electronics Systems Center since 2003. Humayun, who has a medical degree from Duke University and doctorate from the University of North Carolina, is the only ophthalmologist ever to be elected a member of both U.S. National Academies of Medicine and Engineering.

–by USC Stevens staff, published May 20, 2016. Photo by Ryan K. Morris, National Science & Technology Medals Foundation