|Eye with intermediate age-related macular degeneration--Courtesy of NYSOA.org|
Medical retinal imaging player Optos ($OPTS), the U.K. National Health Service and academics will participate in a £10 million ($16 million) collaboration to enable earlier detection of eye diseases that threaten vision.
An initial £1.1 million ($1.8 million) from Innovate U.K. and Optos will go to developing a laser-based technology that monitors the function of the cells of the eye. This is expected to allow detection and monitoring of eye disease at an earlier stage than currently possible. The first clinical studies will focus on age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, the leading causes of blindness. They are expected to be completed in the first half of 2017.
If these trials are successful, the NHS will invest £9 million ($14.4 million) to develop a fully licensed medical device for NHS by 2018.
About 7 million people lose their vision worldwide annually, with about 285 million people suffering from vision impairment. Rates of vision loss are expected to double by 2020 due to more cases of cataracts, glaucoma and AMD in an aging population. About 80% of the causes of blindness can be treated if they are caught early enough, according to the World Health Organization.
"It is critical that the NHS works closely with partners, both in the development of new technology and in the evaluation of its effectiveness, this research marks the start of a new collaborative framework to deliver solutions for the NHS," Dr. Stuart Parks, lead for the NHS consortium, said in a statement.
Collaborators include scientists and physicians, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Universities of Kent and Strathclyde. Innovate U.K. was previously known as the Technology Strategy Board and is a government-backed agency tasked with stimulating innovation and economic growth in the country.
Optos is a U.K.-based company that markets eyecare devices and products including Optomaps, which are unique, digital images of about 82% of the retina that are used to identify early signs of eye disease as well as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
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