AI-based eye disease detection startup raises $18 million from US investors

- May 15, 2023 2 MIN READ
Prof Mingguang He.
Eyetelligence cofounder Prof Mingguang He. Photo: Anna Carlile
Melbourne healthtech startup Eyetelligence, which uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology and retinal imaging to screen for eye and other diseases, has raised US$12 million (A$17.75m) from New York investor Ascertain.

Eyetelligence’s AI-enabled products are already being commercialised in Australia, including by Bupa Optical and the optometry chain George & Matilda, as well as in New Zealand, Europe, and Japan.

The tech underpinning it was developed by Professor Mingguang He, from the University of Melbourne and Centre for Eye Research Australia, who cofounded Eyetillenge, with Jason Sun.

“The three most common eye diseases – diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma – can be detected far earlier with algorithmic retinal image analysis. These three diseases, however, are just the tip of the iceberg,” Prof He said.

“The eye is a window through which we can discern any disease that affects the microvascular system. This technology allows clinicians to act faster and prevent significant impacts on quality of life.”

The Melbourne startup’s approach is similar to New Zealand startup Toku Eyes, which developed an AI platform to improve early detection of eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and other diseases observable via the eye, and raised NZ$3.6 million (A$3.35m) in a Seed round in 2021.

Eyetelligence is the first international investment by Ascertain, a partnership between healthcare-focused venture studio Aegis Ventures, and Northwell Health, one of the largest health systems in the US. Ascertain helps accelerate the development of healthcare AI companies globally w

Prof He said Ascertain sees the potential of Eyetelligence’s technology for the US.

Eyetelligence will be rebranded and launched in the US as Optain, offering non-invasive point-of-care technology to diagnose a range of diseases more rapidly and cost-effectively.

Optain CEO Jeff Dunkel said their tech will make preventive care ubiquitous, placing diagnostic tools in the hands of clinicians everywhere.

“The healthcare industry has made a concerted effort in recent years to shift treatment from reactive sick-care to proactive preventive care, but many of the legacy screening and diagnostic technologies used by clinicians today are expensive and inaccessible. Optain will accelerate that shift,” he ssaid.

“The most immediate opportunity for impact is within ophthalmology. Optain’s first goal is to expand access to screenings and diagnosis for preventable eye disease, closing critical health equity gaps, particularly in underserved communities where diagnostic and screening tools aren’t available.”

Austrade deputy CEO Daniel Boyer said Ascertain’s investment in Eyetelligence is a nod to Australia’s cutting-edge biotech sector.

“Australia has a successful track record of health and biomedical innovations that have been scaled up internationally. Our world-class universities, highly skilled talent and complementary regulatory environment make our healthtech ecosystem a global leader,” he said.


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