by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | February 14, 2020
Neurotech and AI firm C. Light Technologies has developed what it claims is the first retinal eye-tracking technology equipped with machine learning to assess and predict neurological health.
The solution is designed to make noninvasive and objective assessments in ten seconds using a technique called Tracking Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope. The technique enables the capture of images of the retina to better understand the condition of the brain, and was invented by C. Light’s CEO and co-founder Christy K. Sheehy through her dissertation work at UC Berkeley.
“Our go-to market strategy is to first work with neurodegeneration focused pharma companies to serve as an exploratory endpoint for clinical trials by providing them a new tool for patient stratification and drug efficacy testing,” Sheehy told HCB News, alongside CSO and co-founder Zachary Helft. “This is because one of the biggest obstacles to producing novel therapeutics in this space is the absence of a technology to accurately track disease progression. Upon our future FDA approval, we can then transition these early stage interactions to pharma partnerships, which will help to drive early clinical adoption.”
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Imaging with TSLO is 120 times more sensitive than that of currently available tracking systems. The technology utilizes AI and eye tracking to measure the motion of the eye on a cellular scale, tracking movements as small as roughly 1/100 of the size of human hair. It then creates a digital fingerprint of a patient’s neurological health.
The eventual aim is to reduce expensive and time-consuming practices for diagnosing and monitoring neurodegenerative diseases, which cost the healthcare system $800 billion annually. Such challenges can delay diagnosis — along with limited medications available for treatment — and lead to more difficulties, symptoms and side effects for patients.
Sheehy and Helft hope the technology will enable clinicians to quickly view the state of a disease and determine how well a particular medication will work against it, with changes made as needed.
The first condition it will be used to evaluate for will be multiple sclerosis, followed by Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and concussions, among others.
“MS is the only neurodegenerative disease that has viable therapeutics on the market — 15 FDA approved therapies to be exact,” they said. “Other diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's only have drugs that help to mitigate symptoms, but don't actually act on disease mechanisms. Having viable therapeutics out there allows us to provide a future solution to both the clinic and pharma — which in turn gives us a bigger impact in the space.”
They add that assessments of this condition — including relapsing remitting MS — will “help us in developing future predictive algorithms for MS and other neuro diseases. It also is a much faster path to helping patients because other neurological disorders are slow developing, and the time to prove efficacy in these areas could take much longer.”
Prototypes of the device have been sold to researchers within the vision science and visual perception space for research purposes.
Sales for the solution in clinical settings will not start until FDA approval has been obtained. A date for that has not yet been determined.