Vision for Mars Challenge: A Unique Opportunity for Ophthalmology Companies

After returning from space missions, some astronauts experience eye problems and changes to their vision. That’s why the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) and the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine launched the Vision for Mars Challenge to help identify and advance medical technologies for ocular health in space through collaboration and funding support.

The Industry Forum for the NSBRI initiated the Challenge with a workshop in Houston today after first announcing the initiative last month at the Ophthalmology Innovation Summit (OIS) in Chicago.

To help NASA better understand this new syndrome, today’s workshop brought together distinguished clinical and business leaders within the ophthalmology sector to help identify cutting-edge, space-appropriate diagnostic approaches and devices.

Dr. Tim Stout, professor and chair of ophthalmology at Baylor said, “We don’t understand the effects of reduced gravity on the optic nerve. However, we have some evidence that long term spaceflight can result in visual field defects in astronauts. This workshop is a great step toward bringing the ophthalmologists and scientists needed to answer these questions to the same table.”

“NASA needs these next-generation clinical diagnostic and research-enabling technologies to provide critical information about ocular health during spaceflight. These technologies must be small, robust and easy to use by non-experts,” said Dr. Dorit Donoviel, NSBRI’s Deputy Chief Scientist and Industry Forum Lead. “This is an excellent opportunity for small US-based companies to receive funding and accelerate the development of their products.”

The Vision for Mars Challenge leverages an ongoing successful Industry Forum initiative called Space Medical and Related Technologies Commercialization Assistance Program or (SMARTCAP,) which identifies and funds small U.S.-based companies developing disruptive medical technologies. At least three SMARTCAP grants in this cycle will be awarded to companies with innovative ophthalmology products.

Key Dates for the Vision for Mars Plan:

  • November 6, 2014  – Vision for Mars Challenge workshop in Houston, TX.
  • December 4, 2014 –  Application Deadline for SMARTCAP – Vision for Mars Challenge.
  • February, 2015 –  Winners of the SMARTCAP Vision for Mars Challenge announced.

Submission guidelines and additional information regarding SMARTCAP may be viewed at  Grant recipients must secure a 100-percent match in funding. This leveraging of federal funding actively fosters public-private collaborations and partnerships.


Established in 1997 through a NASA competition, NSBRI is headquartered at Baylor College of Medicine, in the Texas Medical Center and is a consortium of twelve leading biomedical institutions. NSBRI, a 501(c)(3) organization partnered with NASA, is studying the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight and developing the technologies and countermeasures needed for human space exploration missions. The Institute’s science, technology and career development projects take place at approximately 60 institutions across the United States. For more information, please visit The Industry Forum engages the private sector to develop medical products for both space and Earth through commercialization activities and seed funding. Find out more at and follow the NSBRI Industry Forum on Twitter and Facebook.

About the CSM

The CSM was established at Baylor College of Medicine in 2008 and is the first academic entity of its kind in the world. Aligned with Baylor’s mission, CSM is a collaborative enterprise involving multiple Baylor College of Medicine departments and centers, the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, NASA, Rice University, Texas Medical Center institutions, and other academic, industry and government organizations nationally and internationally. The center’s mission is to be a world academic leader in space biomedical research and education and to translate the advances in knowledge and technology to benefit life on Earth. Located in the BioScience Research Collaborative, CSM faculty, students, fellows and staff work side-by-side with NSBRI, NASA and other colleagues to foster biomedical discovery, advance the field of space medicine and train the space biomedical scientists and physicians of the future.


About Baylor College of Medicine

Baylor College of Medicine ( in Houston is recognized as a premier academic health sciences center and is known for excellence in education, research and patient care. It is the only private medical school in the greater southwest and is ranked 21st among medical schools for research and 12th for primary care by U.S. News & World Report. Baylor is listed 19th among all U.S. medical schools for National Institutes of Health funding and number one in Texas. Located in the Texas Medical Center, Baylor has affiliations with seven teaching hospitals and jointly owns and operates CHI St. Luke’s Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Currently, Baylor trains more than 3,000 medical, graduate, nurse anesthesia, physician assistant and orthotics students, as well as residents and post-doctoral fellows. Follow Baylor College of Medicine on Facebook ( and Twitter (



NSBRI Contact:
Graham B.I. Scott, Ph.D.

Vice President, Chief Scientist, & Institute Associate Director

National Space Biomedical Research Institute, (NSBRI)

Tel: (713) 798-7227


CSM Contact:

Dorit Donoviel, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Center for Space Medicine and Pharmacology

Baylor College of Medicine

Tel: (713) 798-8588


BCM Contact:

Julia Parsons
Communications Specialist
Baylor College of Medicine
Tel: (713) 798.4738