"A firework – incredible!"

Seven speakers presented their ideas and extraordinary experiences at the third Tübingen Innovation Conference “TEDx” on 16 July 2017. TEDx is an online forum and its concept originated in the USA. “T” stands for technology, “E” for entertainment, “D” for design and “x” for independent. Talks lasting 18 minutes each covered topics ranging from business and science to art and culture.

One of last Sunday’s speakers was Peter Böhm. His account made a lasting impression on the 400-strong audience, because Böhm was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) at the age of six. In most cases, this incurable hereditary eye disease results in blindness. Now 50, Böhm has indeed totally lost his sight in one eye but has low-level residual vision in the other. He talked about his life so far, painting a very optimistic picture despite losing his eyesight. “Loss means having to take a different path and that often offers a new opportunity,” he said. Not only as a patient but also as a result of his great interest in technology, he immediately agreed when given the chance to take part in a trial by Reutlingen-based Retina Implant AG in 2014. As part of a multi-centre study that involved testing the RETINA IMPLANT Alpha AMS subretinal implant developed by the medtech company, Böhm had the microchip implanted beneath the retina of the eye in which he was completely blind. He related to his experiences with the implant, which enabled him to distinguish between light and dark: “I could see a firework with the chip. It was incredible!” Böhm revealed that he had even been able to identify letters around ten centimetres tall – and it meant the world to him.

Retina Implant AG in Reutlingen develops and sells the retinal implant, which can restore some sight to patients who have gone blind as a result of RP. It enables them to make out light sources and the outlines of buildings or figures. This microchip is the result of 20 years of intensive research by Professor Eberhart Zrenner from the Institute for Ophthalmic Research at Tübingen University and the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute (NMI), also at Tübingen University. The new chip generation obtained CE certification in March 2016 and is implanted at specialist centres. Health insurance companies usually cover the costs of this operation.