An instrument that could help identify individuals at risk of developing a common eye condition that can cause blindness is being designed in partnership between Azul Optics, the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund and a group of entrepreneurs.
Azul Optics is in the process of developing the ophthalmic instrument, which it says will enable the “rapid and cost-effective screening” of patients to determine their susceptibility to age-related macular-degeneration (AMD).
The device was the idea of Dr Shelby Temple from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Science, and it is hoped that in the future the tool could be used in optical practices as a preventative eye health method in the same way that screening for retinopathy and glaucoma is used today.
Chief executive of Azul Optics, Joseph Cefai, highlighted that AMD is the leading cause of incurable blindness in the western world, affecting up to one-in-10 people over the age of 65. He explained that: “By screening for low macular pigment density, opticians could advise people to make lifestyle changes early that can help prevent the problem developing.”
A prototype of the instrument has already been developed and evaluated by Dr Temple, with Azul Optics’ aiming now to develop the tool and make it commercially available to opticians, Mr Cafai told OT.
Recognising the instrument’s potential, Azul Optics has invested £310,000 into the development project, while the Bristol Private Equity Club has provided £160,000 and the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund has boosted this further still with £150,000 contribution.
"We hope that with this funding we can bring the device to the market within 18 months," Mr Cafai added.