Heru sets sights on virtual reality eye tests and therapies with $30M round

The classic eye chart wall poster is getting an upgrade, with newcomer Heru looking to bring vision tests into virtual reality. 

Using commercially available headsets, the company is developing an artificial-intelligence-powered diagnostic to help examine a person for any losses in their visual field, such as from glaucoma or following a stroke, or for double vision and other eye conditions.

Now, the spinout from the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has secured $30 million to kick-start its efforts, through a series A fundraising led by D1 Capital Partners plus backing from SoftBank Ventures Opportunity Fund and Krillion Ventures. 

The round was also joined by the robotic surgery entrepreneurs Frederic Moll, co-founder of Intuitive Surgical and Auris Health, and Maurice Ferre, chairman of Mako Surgical, Memic Innovative Surgery and Insightec—and now Heru itself.

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“As a company that was birthed from Miami’s vibrant tech sector, it’s exciting to see how Heru is tackling an industry that has remained largely unchanged for decades, despite tremendous technological advancements in the medical field overall,” said Ferre, who also participated in its $2.7 million seed round debut last December.

Heru’s initial goal is to deliver an advanced vision test that can be run just about anywhere, employing a wearable headset to track a patient’s interactions with different stimuli and offering eye care providers a pay-per-use model.

After that, it plans to move into augmented reality applications, with software designed to personalize vision correction using off-the-shelf, camera-mounted headsets such as the Magic Leap and Microsoft’s Hololens to help fill the gaps in a person’s field of view.

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Other companies, such as the French developer Pixium Vision, are taking the implant route to help claim back losses in vision: A miniature camera mounted on a pair of glasses is used to beam information to a thin chip implanted on the back of the retina, which mimics the electrical pulses sent through the optic nerve. 

Pixium recently implanted its first patient in a pivotal clinical trial of dry age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, where a person gradually loses their central vision.