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Institute of Materials Science receives funding for contact lens research (Released: 12/20/96)

by Richard Veilleux, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- The Wesley-Jesson Co. has formed a partnership with the University of Connecticut's Institute of Materials Science to create a new material for bifocal contact lenses.

Although bifocal contact lenses are currently on the market, the lenses are not as convenient or comfortable as users would like. So, using a grant from Wesley-Jesson, researchers at the Institute of Materials Science are looking for a material that can have two separate focal lengths, ensuring greater comfort for the wearer. The eye will sort out the images according to which focal length it needs, and the brain will suppress the blurred image.

Wesley-Jesson was the first company in the nation to develop contact lenses, and it hopes to be the first company to develop the materials to make another advancement to help those with impaired vision. For more help with its research, the company turned to UConn.

"With corporate downsizing, companies are realizing that university research is cheaper than in-house. And with the federal government also cutting back, universities are looking to work with more industrial-related concerns," says Robert Weiss, recipient of the research grant.

Besides investigating materials for bifocal lenses, Weiss and Thomas Seery, an assistant professor at UConn and co-investigator of the research project, also are looking for materials that will allow contact lenses to act as drug delivery devices. The second stage of the research project will find a material that would allow drugs that are put into the eye to be released at a controlled rate. The material must be ideal for consistent drug delivery.

"Advanced materials are making a big dent in the medical industry because these materials are needed to maintain therapeutic drug delivery," Seery says.

For more information, call Robert Weiss at the Institute of Materials Science, (860) 486-4698.