Early-stage medical device company Vasoptic Medical Inc.
is conducting tests on a device to detect and prevent a progressively worsening eye condition that leads to blindness.
The tests, being held at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute
, are required for federal Food and Drug Administration approval. When done in 2014, the Columbia company will seek FDA clearance to market and sell the device.
CEO and general counsel M. Jason Brooke estimates it will cost $7.5 million to bring the device to market. The federal National Institute of Health last year awarded the team a $225,000 development grant. The company next month will apply for a $1 million to $1.5 million NIH Small Business Innovation grant, which is intended to help speed commercialization of promising technology.
Johns Hopkins has a $180,000 multi-year grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, part of which goes to Vasoptic for commercialization. Vasoptic has received a $75,000 grant from Maryland Technology Development Corp., or TEDCO, for commercialization. It is also one of 33 finalists in the state’s InvestMaryland Challenge, the winners and cash prizes to be announced next month.
Brooke says the company is considering an angel financing round this year for $500,000.
“We are starting to get recognition of the value of technology among investors,” he says.
Brooke and Chief Technology Officer Abhishek Rege are Vasoptic’s current staff. Depending on grants, the company will hire two to four research engineers this year. The company is located in Howard County incubator, the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship
The so-far unnamed device is intended for the early detection of diabetic retinopathy, a condition caused by both Type I and Type II diabetes. One in nearly three diabetics, or six-to-eight million people, has some form of diabetic retinopathy. Another eye implant invented by Hopkins scientists and manufactured by a California company recently received FDA approval.
In the US, 25 million people have diabetes, seven million people are undiagnosed diabetics and another 80 million people are pre-diabetic. The condition causes reduced blood flow to the tissue of the retina that leads to severe visual impairment and eventually blindness.
Brooke says the recommended treatment is regular eye exams to detect the condition and better management of one’s diabetes to slow its progression.
Vasoptic is not the only technology to screen for the condition. But other technologies require an ophthalmologist to analyze the images, says Brooke. Vasoptic’s technology is designed to be used by the primary care physician.
Vasoptic’s hand-held device captures anatomical images and physiological information like blood vessel flow that its accompanying software analyzes. The device not only detects the existence of the condition but predicts the risk of the diabetic developing it as well.
“It’s not hard for an ophthalmologist to detect the condition in its early stage but half of diabetics don’t receive the recommended eye exams” because of the expense and inconvenience, Brooke says . “Our focus is the primary care facility and keeping the device low cost,” likely under $10,000 each.
Rege developed the technology while working at the Johns Hopkins department of biomedical engineering. Hopkins filed patent papers and entered into a licensing agreement with Vasoptic to commercialize the device.
Source: M. Jason Brooke, Vasoptic Medical, Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash