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Glaucoma device nets third patent for CBU's Matthew Rickard

Glaucoma device nets third patent for CBU's Matthew Rickard

RIVERSIDE (July 30, 2012) - Dr. Matthew Rickard just added a new patent to the two that sit on top of his filing cabinet. The latest one was granted in May, although all three have been approved in the past two years. He has submitted applications for about a dozen more.


Rickard, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at California Baptist University, explained that the first patent stemmed from his doctoral work at the University of California Irvine and related to moving airflow with no moving parts. The last two, as well as the other applications in progress, are results of his glaucoma research at Alcon Laboratories. Both are for devices that measure intraocular pressure, one with light and the other with a small wire.


“Glaucoma results when intraocular pressure (IOP) increases above normal for prolonged periods of time,” he said. “In glaucoma patients, that pressure can vary widely during a 24-hour period. Higher pressures damage the optic nerve and can lead to blindness. Both inventions provide ways to continuously monitor a patient’s IOP.”


While patents for moving airflow and measuring IOP may seem vastly different, Rickard said the two areas are actually related.


“They all deal with pressure in general,” he said, “though the eye is a much smaller area. But too much pressure in the eye? That’s a problem that can be addressed through mechanical engineering.”


Rickard has worked as a research engineer for a variety of companies. At The Aerospace Corporation, he conducted experimental research on combustion phenomena in a state-of-the-art shock tube facility. He served as a test data analyst for Raytheon's advanced satellite imagers, and he wrote grants and conducted cutting-edge research for a high-tech innovation firm specializing in small systems integration. At Alcon Laboratories, he developed advanced vitreoretinal surgical products and lead research programs for state-of-the-art glaucoma devices.


“A lot of technology can be applied to other uses,” he explained. “Research in glaucoma was kind of a stagnant field, so my work is focused on thinking of ways to apply existing technology to problems associated with glaucoma.”


Rickard joined the engineering faculty at CBU in 2010, after teaching as an adjunct faculty member in physics at Concordia University in Irvine.


“I developed a passion to shape young Christian minds at Concordia,” he said, “and that passion brought me here.”


At CBU, Rickard said he will “stay close” to glaucoma research, but he’ll take a step back and look at the basics, involving students in his work. For example, as a lab project last year, a group of senior mechanical engineering majors developed a bypass structure for a glaucoma drainage device. The experience allowed the class to apply engineering fundamentals to medical purposes.


“Glaucoma drainage devices are used to relieve IOP pressure to reduce the risk of glaucoma,” Rickard said. “The students worked on a simple surgical technique where current off-the-shelf bioabsorbable sutures were passed through the implant tube to extend the life of these drainage devices.”


Two students, Justin Mueller and Mark Davenport, presented their work in March at the Measurement Science Conference in Irvine. Davenport is one of four CBU engineering students who have been awarded an internship with Alcon.


Rickard is currently working on a new project with senior electrical engineering student Joseph “Nelly” Sugira in which the pulsatile flow of ocular fluid is simulated on a benchtop system. Their results are to be presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Opthalmology meeting in May 2013.

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