The eyes are not only the window to the soul, but also reveal a lot about a patient's health. A young spin-off from the University of Bern is developing a multi-functional device to automatically perform different eye exams for early diagnosis of brain diseases.
Researchers in Bern have developed a novel technology that automatically examines pupil and eye movements and replaces a complete neuro-ophthalmic examination. Founded in 2019 as a spin-off from the University of Bern, machineMD introduces a diagnostic device for an automated, objective and quantifiable analysis of brain functions related to the visual system.
Late diagnosis is a reality
The neuro-ophthalmic examination is an essential part of the assessment of brain functions. According to the Bernese start-up, roughly 25% of patients with multiple sclerosis and 50% of patients with brain tumours are diagnosed based on neuro-ophthalmic symptoms. Today, neuro-ophthalmic examinations are mostly performed manually and require special training which many physicians do not have. In addition, examinations are time-consuming, and results are not always accurate. The results are frequently false or late diagnoses.
Four times faster examination
Thanks to the easily accessible examinations – no manual analysis by an ophthalmologist is required – brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis or brain tumours can be detected at an early stage. With the existing prototypes of machineMD, the start-up is able to perform eight different eye exams within 10 minutes. Ophthalmologists cannot come close to this performance with manual examinations, which require at least 45 minutes. The diagnostic device – the NeurOphthalmoscope – enables the full examination to be carried out by a medical assistant without the involvement of a doctor.
This specialised examination is available to everyone, not just people with years of additional training.
From prototyping to market launch
The MedTech company, one of the very first tenants of the new MedTech start-up hub at sitem-insel in Bern, is still in the first stages of product development. However, the existing research prototypes have already integrated most of the functions of the future device and are working well, explains Prof. Mathias Abegg, medical director at machineMD. The team hopes to be able to sell the first device before the end of 2023. A first seed financing round worth CHF 1.4 million has been completed and Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency, is providing additional funding of CHF 1.7 million.