Australian researchers that developed a simple eye test to detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease have secured funding to commercialize their technology—to take from lab to the eye clinic. Australia’s Centre for Eye Research recently incubated the Enlighten Imaging, an Australian start-up, recently a recipient of the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund support under BioMedTech Horizons 2.0 program delivered by MTPConnect.
The team developed a technology similar to that used in NASA satellites to scan the retina for signs of brain and eye diseases. It will increase access to tests, which are currently not available in eye clinics, for these conditions. The group’s funding—by BioMedTech Horizons and the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation—enables them to start the medical device development journey and leverage this technology, conduct clinical trials and hopefully seek FDA approval.
Who is BioMedTech Horizons?
The BioMedTech Horizons program is a funding initiative to support innovative collaborative health technologies, drive discoveries towards proof-of-concept, and commercialization that addresses key health challenges as well as maximize entrepreneurship and idea potential. The funding is key in helping the Australian group transform research into real-world outcomes that will hopefully benefit patients.
The researchers’ earlier results were recently published in Nature Communications and showed that the eye test accurately identified study volunteers who have brain changes that suggest Alzheimer’s disease. Consequently, the technology is now undergoing clinical trials in a larger study in collaboration with the Health Brain Project at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. The purpose of this study is to assess whether the eye test can detect people at risk of the disease, up to 20 years prior to onset of symptoms.
Associate Professor van Wijngaarden said so far, the team had used an expensive research camera for its studies. Moving forward, they would develop a more economical portable model that could eventually be used by an optometrist. van Wijngaarden noted, “We want to make our technology available to those at the frontline of eye care and we believe hyperspectral imaging has the ability to provide new insights into eye and brain health.”
Peter van Wijngaarden, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne, Deputy Director, Centre for Eye Research Institute
Dr. Xavier Hadoux, University of Melbourne