Iowa City company creates “breakthrough device” to fight blindness

Published: Feb. 5, 2018 at 3:59 PM CST
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CLARIFICATION: This technology is meant for use in a primary care physician's clinic. Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, and Retinal Specialists are qualified to diagnose diabetic retinopathy.

For IDX President and Founder Dr. Michael Abramoff, using artificial technology to fight diabetic retinopathy is something years in the making.

“I see patients who have this disease and many times it’s late, or very late, or too late, and if caught early we could do so much to prevent this,” Dr. Abramoff said.

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes and around 24,000 of those lose their vision each year. The leading cause of that blindness is diabetic retinopathy.

IDX created a device that can autonomously detect the disease just by taking a few photos of the eye. The technology was trained by using millions of photos of retinas with and without the disease.

“I’m essentially automating what I do,” Dr. Abramoff said.

Dr. Abramoff said many patients don’t make the trip to see an eye specialist along with the annual checkups with a primary care provider.

“Currently the compliance rates for the exam are terribly low, less than 50% in many cases, often times even more so in rural or underserved populations,” IDX Vice President of Business Development John Casko said. “We’re taking the expert knowledge of a retinal specialist and were embedding it into technology, moving it out to the front lines of care.”

That means a primary care physician only needs a four hour training to be able to use the device. A patient would be able to get the exam while they are checked for other preventative care.

The device went through clinical trials and the data was sent to the FDA. The administration labeled it a “breakthrough device” which means it will get expedited review.

IDX hopes to have an answer within the next few months.