Today I got nervous about my biannual checkups with my ophthalmologist. Not because he's not thorough and skilled. Quite the contrary; I've been impressed with the care he takes in addressing my concerns.
No, the problem is that the tools we have for routine eye examination are inadequate. 100 million people in North America are at risk for Age-related Macular Degenration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness, and require follow-up. Another 30 million have undiagnosed glaucoma and 24 million more have asymptomatic diabetic retinopathy.
If these diseases remained asymptomatic, no problem. But here's the real issue: by the time standard instruments and trained physicians can detect the structural changes caused by these diseases, irreversible damage has already occurred. Almost 20 million people in North America are dealing with that reality.
Here's Looking at You, Kid...
Optina, a startup from Montreal, Canada, is using technology developed to detect the chemical composition of distant stars to analyze the molecules in your eye. Their IRIS™ system filters a white light to shine different wavelengths into the patient's eye. Images of the retina taken at different wavelengths are then quickly compiled in a hyperspectral cube that contains a wealth of information about the molecules. The spectra from the cube can be analyzed to assess the location and quantity of specific biomolecules.
Since the biomolecules associated with AMD and other eye diseases appear prior to symptoms, the IRIS™ system can detect disease long before any structural damage has occurred. The effectiveness of treatment can also be assessed much earlier and more accurately than is possible today.
Here's the Really Exciting Part
It's not just eye diseases that produce signature biomolecules in the eye. Optina CEO David Lapointe sees a future in which cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even Alzheimer's can be detected with a quick look at your eyes. So quick and easy, in fact, that he hopes to one day see his invention in every pharmacy, next to the blood pressure machine. Seems very George Jetson to me - can't wait!
AdvaMed2012: October 1 - 3 in Boston
Optina is one of 18 companies in the Canadian mission to AdvaMed2012 that is being held in Boston for the first time this fall. The conference brings together industry leaders, international MedTech executives, business development professionals, investors, distributors and many others.
Disclosure: I have been retained to coach each of these companies on their pitches for the conference. After I coach entrepreneurs on their pitch, I often write blog posts about them based on what I have learned in the coaching process. Any errors are mine and mine alone.