The Team

An Extraordinary Collaboration

The Boston Retinal Implant Project (BRIP) is a highly-specialized, academically-based group of 30 researchers that has been committed to developing new technologies for the blind. The BRIP has maintained a "virtual" laboratory that has included scientists across the United States. The fruits of this research are now being commercialized under the name of Visus Technology, Inc.  The core members of the BRIP are to be employed by Visus to maintain continuity in our mission.

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Perceptual efficacy of electrical stimulation of human retina with a microelectrode array during short-term surgical trials

Methods and perceptual thresholds for short-term electrical stimulation of human retina with microelectrode arrays

Thresholds for activation of rabbit retinal ganglion cells with an ultrafine, extracellular microelectrode

Update on Retinal Prosthetic Research: The Boston Retinal Implant Project

Joseph Rizzo, III., M.D.

Co-Director, Boston Retinal Implant Project

Professor of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School / Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

Director, Neuro-Ophthalmology Service, Harvard Medical School

Strategic Planning; In-Vivo Biological Studies

Joseph Rizzo is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana and a graduate of Louisiana State University and Louisiana State University Medical School in New Orleans, where he received the "Dean's Award" in recognition of outstanding leadership and performance. He completed an internship in Adult Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center, followed by a Neurology residency at Tufts University - New England Medical Center and then an Ophthalmology residency at Boston University. He then performed a clinical fellowship in  Neuro-Ophthalmology under Dr. Simmons Lessell in the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Dr. Rizzo is Board-Certified both in Ophthalmology and Neurology. Following completion of clinical training Dr. Rizzo joined the full-time academic faculty at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and received a five-year Physician Training Award from the National Institutes of Health. His basic laboratory training was under the supervision of his research mentor, Richard Masland, Ph.D.

Dr. Rizzo initiated the Retinal Implant Project in 1988 and since then he has divided his professional time equally between the evaluation of patients with Neuro-Ophthalmologic disease and the co-direction of the research endeavors of the Boston Retinal Implant Project. 



A Power-Efficient Neural Tissue Stimulator with Energy Recovery

Development and Implantation of a Minimally-Invasive, Wireless Sub-Retinal Neurostimulator

Realization of a 15-Channel, Hermetically-Encased Wireless Subretinal Prosthesis for the Blind

Perceptual Efficacy of Electrical Stimulation of Human Retina with a Microelectrode Array During Short-Term Surgical Trials

Methods and Perceptual Thresholds for Short-Term Electrical Stimulation of Human Retina with Microelectrode Arrays

John Wyatt, Ph.D.

Professor of Engineering, MIT


John Wyatt heads the MIT engineering team for the Boston Retinal Implant Project, where he has overseen the overall development and circuit design of four generations of the implant device. Generation five, for human implantation, is due in the third quarter of 2012. He received his B.S. from MIT (1968), M.S. from Princeton (1972) and Ph.D. from U.C. Berkekey (1979). He did his first research on the retina while at Berkeley, in the lab of Professor Frank Werblin. Professor Wyatt’s doctoral dissertation included a study of how forces and flows in circuits could be used to model biological processes, and he developed this work further during his post-doctoral work at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV). MIT recruited him from MCV, and he joined MIT’s faculty in Electrical Engineering in 1979. MIT awarded him tenure in 1985. His early work at MIT focused on circuit theory, especially its application to integrated circuits, and machine vision, particularly focal plane image processing. He and Dr. Rizzo founded the Boston Retinal Implant Project in 1989, and much of his subsequent work has focused on the development and fabrication of an implant device for the eye.  He has done consulting for numerous technology and financial institutions, as well as for DARPA. He has published numerous articles and received 11 U.S. patents. In 1998 the Retinitis Pigmentosa International Foundation awarded him the Jules Stein Living Tribute Award. He grew up in Nashville, TN.


Sonny Behan

Sonny Behan Consulting, Inc.

Medical Device Design

Sonny Behan has been a key design consultant to the Boston Retinal Implant team for several years. He has an extensive background in implantable medical devices, and over 25 years' experience in the field. References to his prior work with other clients are available on Mr. Behan's Web site at


Bcl-2 enhances Ca2+ signaling to support the intrinsic regenerative capacity of CNS axons

Re-establishing the regenerative potential of CNS axons in adult mice

EGFR Activation Mediates Inhibition of Axon Regeneration by Myelin and Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans

Ephrins as negative regulators of adult neurogenesis in diverse regions of the central nervous system

Dynamic patterns of histone lysine methylation in the developing retina

Dong Feng Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School

Principle Investigator

Dr. Dong Feng Chen, M.D., Ph.D. is a graduate of Beijing University and was trained in the laboratory of a Nobel laurel Dr. Susumu Tonegawa at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before she joined the faculty at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on the mechanisms and application of neuroregenerative approach for CNS repair. Her lab is the first to demonstrate full-length optic nerve regeneration in post born mice. These works hold a promise for restoring sight to people with retinal or optic nerve damage and to repair the CNS after injury.



Surgical Implantation of Newly Designed Subretinal Implant in Minipig Eyes

Surgical Implantation of 1.5 Generation Retinal Implant in Minipig Eyes

Extraction of a Chronically Implanted, Microfabricated. Sub-Retinal Electrode Array

Surgical Implantation of Penetrating Electrode Arrays in Minipig Eyes

Surgical Implantation of Different Geometries of Electrode Arrays in Minipig Eyes

Jinghua Chen M.D. Ph.D.

Retinal Surgeon

Associate Scientist in Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Havard Medical School, Boston, MA

Jinghua Chen M.D. Ph.D graduated from Beijing University Health Science Center in China with M.D. and Ph.D degrees. Dr. Chen finished her residency training in Ophthalmology at the People’s Hospital of Beijing University in China. Dr.Chen was an attending doctor in Ophthalmology and associate professor at the People’s Hospital of Beijing University in China before she joined Boston Retinal Implant Project in 2004. Dr.Chen is specialized in retinal diseases and electrical physiology. In our project she has performed a lot of implantation surgeries and improved the surgical technique which has greatly increased our success rate of implantation. Dr. Chen has also explored the implantation possibility of giant arrays and 3D arrays which will benefit the blind patients in the long run.



Development of Retinal Implant Driver Software for Retinal Implant Project

Development of Retinal Ganglion Cell Model to Assess Optimal Stimulation Parameters

Exploration of Optimal Coil Designs for Retinal Implant Power and Data Telemetry

Operation of a Wirelessly Powered Subretinal Stimulator

External Field Firing Thresholds for Neurons

William A. Drohan, MEE

Research Engineer

Hardware and Software Design

BEE, MEE, designing, building, testing and manufacturing electronics systems and software of all types. Joined the project in August 2004.  Contributed to several aspects of overall design including physiological simulations, FEM analysis and simulations, conceptual and intellectual property, test fixture design and manufacture, support electronic circuit design, animal experiment design, animal test software and ASIC test software.


William D. Eldred, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Biology

Professor, Graduate Program in Neuroscience

Professor, Program in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry

Dr. William D. Eldred received his PhD in Anatomy from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 1979. He has done retinal research for 32 years which has resulted in 62 peer reviewed papers. His particular areas of expertise include the anatomy, neurochemistry, and signal transduction pathways in the retina; with an emphasis on the role of nitric oxide in retinal function and pathology. Dr. Eldred is doing all the histological analysis of the interactions of the retinal prostheses with the retina. This involves detailed confocal microscopy coupled with immunocytochemical studies of a variety of glial, immunological and neurochemical markers.



Real Portable Model for System/Verilog/A/AMS

Dr. William F. Ellersick, Ph.D.

ASIC Project Lead, MIT Retinal Implant Group

President, Analog Circuit Works

Integrated Circuit Design

Bill Ellersick is a founder of Analog Circuit Works, a mixed-signal circuit design company that is leading the design of an ASIC with the retinal implant group at MIT. His experience includes the design of low-power mixed signal circuits at Qualcomm, PLLs and ADCs at Maxim and low power Gbit/s equalizers, transceivers and clock recovery circuits at Analog Devices. Bill received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford in 2001 after working at Raynet, Inc. on fiber-to-the-home telephone systems.


Selective Activation of Neuronal Targets with Sinusoidal Electric Stimulation

The sodium channel band shapes the response to electric stimulation in retinal ganglion cells

Encoding Visual Information in Retinal Ganglion Cells with Prosthetic Stimulation

Response variability to high rates of electric stimulation in retinal ganglion cells

Calcium channel dynamics limit synaptic release in response to prosthetic stimulation with sinusoidal waveforms – a computational study

Shelley Fried, Ph.D.

Assistant in Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School

Instructor, Mass General Hospital

Health Scientist, Boston VA Medical Center

Retinal Electrophysiology

Shelley Fried is a Neuroscience Associate in the Department of Neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School and Research Scientist at the Boston VA Medical Center in Boston, MA. Dr. Fried has a PhD in Vision Science from UC Berkeley where he studied the mechanisms by which the normal retina transforms light into neural signals. He did postdoctoral training at both UC Berkeley and at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston studying electric stimulation of the retina. His research explores how and why retinal neurons respond to electric stimulation. The goal is to use this knowledge to develop improved stimulation methods. Prior to obtaining his PhD, Dr. Fried worked for 12 years in the medical device industry developing a wide range of anesthesia and respiratory therapy products.



A Microfabricated Penetrating Electrode Array for a Subretinal Prosthesis

A Microfabricated Subretinal Electrode Array With an Integrated a-SiC Barrier

Microfabricated MultiElectrode Arrays for in vitro Studying Neural Coding in the Retina

Development of a Flexible High-Density Multi-Layered Metallization Interconnect Technology for a Subretinal Prosthesis

Marcus D. Gingerich, Ph.D.

Research Health Scientist, Boston VA Healthcare System

Visiting Scientist, Cornell University

Microfabrication, Lead Engineer

Dr. Marcus Gingerich has over 15 years of Bio-MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems) experience in the area of implantable neuroprosthetics. He studied Bioengineering and Electrical Engineering at the University of Michigan where he received a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering specializing in solid-state neuroprosthetic implants, specifically two- and three-dimensional penetrating microelectrode arrays with integrated CMOS signal processing circuitry. Dr. Gingerich joined the Boston Retinal Implant Project in 2002 to apply his expertise to the development of microfabricated, flexible-circuit/electrode array technologies for the retinal implant. He currently serves as the lead microfabrication engineer and continues to pursue his interests in design of implantable neuroprosthetics, microfabrication technologies and biocompatible/hermetic packaging of implantable systems.



Activation of ganglion cells in wild-type and rd1 mouse retinas with monophasic and biphasic current pulses

Adhesion molecules promote chronic neural interfaces following neurotrophin withdrawal

Spatiotemporal aspects of pulsed electrical stimuli on the responses of rabbit retinal ganglion cells

The Response of Retinal Neurons to Electrical Stimulation: A Summary of in-vitro and in-vivo Animal Studies

Effects of GABA receptor antagonists on thresholds of P23H rat retinal ganglion cells to electrical stimulation of the retina

Ralph J. Jensen, Ph.D.

VA Health Science Officer

Retinal Electrophysiologist

As a trained retinal electrophysiologist, Ralph J. Jensen, Ph.D. strives to determine the optimal electrical parameters for stimulation of retinal ganglion cells. With the use of subretinal stimulating electrodes, Dr. Jensen has shown that the thresholds for activation of individual retinal ganglion cells are much higher in animal models (rd1 mice, P23H rats) of retinal degeneration. His recent research studies focus on pharmacological methods to reduce the amount of current needed to activate retinal ganglion cells in degenerate retinas, as well as increasing the electrically induced responses of these cells. Methods to reduce the amount of current needed to activate retinal ganglion cells will increase the long-term safety of a retinal prosthetic device, containing high density microelectrodes.



Anatomical evidence of photoreceptor degeneration induced by iodoacetic acid in the porcine eye

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition and proliferation of retinal pigment epithelial cells initated upon loss of cell-cell contact

Taz-Tead1 Links Cell-Cell Contact to Zeb1 Expression, Proliferation and Dedifferentiation in Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells

Adult retinal pigment epithelial transplantation in exudative age-related macular degeneration

Maculoplasty for age-related macular degeneration: reengineering Bruch’s membrane and the human macul

Henry J Kaplan, M.D.

Evans Professor of Ophthalmology

Chairman, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences

Director, KY Lions Eye Center

University of Louisville

Retinal Implant Surgeon

Henry J. Kaplan, M.D., is the Evans Professor of Ophthalmology and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Louisville, as well as Director of the Kentucky Lion’s Eye Center. He has a joint appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Kaplan received his bachelor’s at Columbia University and his medical degree from Cornell University. He served his residency in ophthalmology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and his retina-vitreous fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He previously was on the faculty at Emory University (1979-1988) – where he was Director of Eye Research, as well as Washington University in St. Louis (1988-2000) – where he was chair of the eye department from 1988-1998.



A Hermetic Wireless Subretinal Neurostimulator for Vision Prostheses

Communication and Control System for a 15-Channel Hermetic Retinal Prosthesis

A Power-Efficient Neural Tissue Stimulator with Energy Recovery

Optimal Primary Coil Size for Wireless Power Telemetry to Medical Implants

A Power-Efficient Voltage-Based Neural Tissue Stimulator with Energy Recovery

Shawn K. Kelly, Ph.D.

Electrical Engineering Manager

Electrical System Design and Testing

Dr. Kelly received the S.B., M.Eng., and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996, 1998, and 2003, respectively. He joined the project in 1996 and developed a portable stimulator for human trials for his masters and a novel low-power neural stimulator chip for his doctorate. He now serves as a Research Biomedical Engineer with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and heads up the design and testing of the electrical systems in the retinal implant. Dr. Kelly’s areas of interest include neural stimulator design, the electrode/tissue interface, wireless power transmission, and power management.



Neural reorganization following sensory loss: the opportunity of change

'Who is the ideal candidate?': decisions and issues relating to visual neuroprosthesis development, patient testing and neuroplasticity

What blindness can tell us about seeing again: merging neuroplasticity and neuroprostheses

Lotfi B. Merabet, OD Ph.D. MPH

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School

Director, The Laboratory for Visual Neuroplasticity, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

Visual Psychophysical Testing and Outcomes

Dr. Merabet is a clinician-neuroscientist interested in how the brain adapts to the loss of sight. He completed his doctorate degree in neuroscience (University of Montréal) and doctorate in optometry (New England College of Optometry). He continued his post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School, Boston University and the MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging. In 2010, he joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.



Design of driving simulator performance evaluations for driving with vision impairments and visual aids

Driving with hemianopia: 1. detection performance in a driving simulator

Driving with hemianopia, 2: Lane position and steering in a driving simulator

Analysis of driving behavior where it matters

The impact of macular disease on pedestrian detection: a driving simulator evaluation

Development of a System to study the impact of headlight Glare in a Driving Simulator

Eliezer (Eli) Peli, BSc, MSc, OD

Co-Director of Research, Senior Scientist, & Moakley Scholar in Aging Eye Research
, Schepens Eye Research Institute

Professor of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School

Adjunct Professor of Optometry, New England College of Optometry

Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology, Tufts University School of Medicine

Director Vision Rehabilitation Service, 
New England Eye Center

Project Leader

Dr. Eli Peli was born in Israel. He served as a radio communication instructor in the Israel Defense Force before attending college. He received a BSc, cum laude, and an MSc degree in electrical engineering, from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. He then came to Boston where he earned his doctorate from New England College of Optometry in 1983. Since 1983 he has been caring for visually impaired patients as the Director of the Vision Rehabilitation Service at the New England Medical Center Hospital in Boston. He is the co-director of research at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, Mass Eye and Ear and a professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. He joined the Center for Innovative Vision Rehabilitation at the Boston VA about a decade ago, where he has been conducting studies on driving with low vision using a driving simulator. Dr. Peli leads one of the largest labs in vision rehabilitation with emphasis on mobility on foot and in cars.




Current Driver Circuits and Safety Features for a Retinal Prosthesis

Optimal Primary Coil Size for Wireless Power Telemetry to Medical Implants

Attila A. Priplata, Ph.D.

Biomedical Engineer, VA Boston Healthcare System

Visiting Scientist, Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT

Project Manger/Design Engineer of front-end controller of the retinal implant; Quality Assurance Management

Dr. Priplata received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. His career focus in the medical device arena has been in project and design management of devices in the field of neuromodulation. With BRIP, he has lead development efforts in computer vision, sensor integration, and embedded system design of the external device.



Synthesis and self-assembly of well-defined Poly(amino acid) end Capped Poly(ethylene glycol) and Poly(2-methyl-2-oxazoline) Biomacromolecules

Self-assembly of ABA triblock copolymers based on functionalized polydimethylsiloxane and polymethyloxazoline

Perspectives on: Material Aspects of Retinal Prostheses

Biocompatibility of subretinal materials in Yucatan pigs

Evaluation of subretinal implants coated with amorphous aluminum oxide and diamond-like carbon

Dr. Carmen Scholz

Materials Science

Surface Modification of Electrode Array to Enhance Biocompatibility

Dr. Scholz received a Dipolma degree (MS) in Polymer Chemistry and the degree of Dr.rer.nat. (Ph.D.) in Chemistry from the University of Technology in Dresden, Germany.  Her research focuses on the synthesis of biocompatible and biomedically relevant polymers.  Specifically, the Scholz-lab synthesizes amphiphilic block copolymers consisting of a highly biocompatible poly(ethylene glycol) or poly(oxazoline) block and a poly(amino acid) block. Poly(amino acid)s are chosen to be reactive towards the surface of biomedical implants and/or have the ability to form soft hydrogels, which are also designed for device encapsulations.      



A Hermetic Wireless Subretinal Neurostimulator for Vision Prostheses

Development and implantation of a minimally-invasive wirelessly-driven sub-retinal neurostimulator

Sputtered iridium oxide films (SIROFs) for neural stimulation electrodes

Methods and Perceptual Thresholds for Short-Term Electrical Stimulation of Human Retina with Microelectrode Arrays

Perceptual Efficacy of Electrical Stimulation of Human Retina with a Microelectrode Array During Short-Term Surgical Trials

Douglas Shire, Ph.D.

Engineering Manager, Boston Retinal Implant Project

Project team management; Microfabrication

Dr. Douglas B. Shire received the B.S. degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, in 1984, and the Ph.D. degree from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, in 1989, both in Electrical Engineering. He then worked with Hewlett Packard, Optoelectronics Division, and in 1994, he rejoined Cornell as a postdoctoral associate, and is now a Visiting Scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Syracuse University. In 1997, he joined the Boston Retinal Implant group, where he developed microfabrication processes for electrode arrays as a member of the VA CIVR. Since 2006, he has served as the project’s Engineering Manager.

Dr. Shire is a member of Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, IEEE EMBS, and ARVO.