Optos, a U.K. medical retinal imaging company, has announced a $16 million collaboration with scientists and clinicians from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and the Universities of Kent and Strathclyde, for the development of a new imaging technology that could allow earlier detection of sight threatening eye disease.
An initial $1.8 million study, funded by Innovate U.K. and Optos, will develop a laser-based technology to monitor the function of the cells in the eye. The enhanced technology is expected to detect and monitor eye disease at a very early stage, enabling earlier intervention and better treatment regimes. The first clinical studies will focus on the leading causes of blindness—age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy—and are expected to be completed in the first half of 2017. If successful, a further $14.4 million will be invested to develop a fully licensed medical device for the NHS by 2018.
Worldwide it is estimated that seven million people lose their vision every year and that 285 million people are visually impaired. These rates are expected to double by 2020 unless prevention efforts intensify, as an ageing population contributes to more cases of cataracts, glaucoma and AMD, the leading causes of blindness. According to the World Health Organization, 80% of blindness can be prevented or treated if caught early enough.