Dr. Nicole Wagner, Farmington, CT, is recognized for her exceptional leadership, creativity in expanding the boundaries of space-based research, and generous support for young women in aerospace.
Dr. Nicole Wagner serves as the President and CEO of LambdaVision, Inc., a company based out of the University of Connecticut that is developing a protein-based artificial retina to restore vision for the millions of patients that are blinded by retinal degenerative diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). LambdaVision’s patent-protected artificial retina technology uses photoactive proteins to naturally mimic the light-absorbing properties of human photoreceptor cells and activate neuroreceptors still present in the degenerated retinas of blind patients. Since the company’s incorporation in 2009, Dr. Wagner has been the driving force behind their commercialization efforts, leading complex experiments that have demonstrated both safety and efficacy of the protein-based artificial retina in animal models.
How does this relate to aerospace? During the summer of 2016, Dr. Wagner’s efforts in fundraising resulted in LambdaVision’s selection as a finalist in the MassChallenge program, and a winner of the CASIS/Boeing prize. With this award came funding and the infrastructure to perform manufacturing experiments aboard the International Space Station. In 2018, those experiments were realized when LambdaVision explored the use of a microgravity environment to improve the layer-by-layer manufacturing process that is used to manufacture the artificial retina. This research effort led to Dr. Wagner being awarded the International Space Station Research Award for Biology and Medicine. LambdaVision, along with its partner, Space Tango, was then awarded a NASA Phase II SBIR and a NASA Commercialization Grant in order to further develop the artificial retina technology and establish manufacturing protocols necessary for first-in-human trials. If successful, LambdaVision’s technology will be the first implantable technology produced on the ISS with direct clinical benefit.
Additionally, Dr. Wagner generously dedicates her time towards mentorship and developing programs and support for young women that are pursuing careers in the sciences and aerospace. Dr. Wagner serves as a Co-Chair on the Board of Directors of New England Women in Science Executives (NEWISE), and has always been active in engaging with young researchers interested in a career in science. She also participated as a mentor in the Association of Women in Science mentorship program and has continued to help other entrepreneurs through the Accelerator for Biosciences in Connecticut (ABCT), as well as the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI) program. Dr. Wagner is a leader in the UConn Technology Incubation Program, where she devotes her time to helping colleagues and aspiring science-oriented entrepreneurs develop business strategies and scientific milestones. Lastly, Dr. Wagner is an advocate for the MassChallenge CASIS/Boeing Prize, and encourages other companies to apply for the program and develop relationships with the aerospace community to help propel their research forward.
Women in Aerospace could not be more pleased to acknowledge Dr. Nicole Wagner as the 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award recipient.