An MIT mobile health spinoff wants to bring vision tests to smartphones and has raised $4 million as part of a Series A round.
In a phone interview with MedCity News, EyeNetra COO and co-founder David Schafran confirmed the fundraise but was fairly tight-lipped about details such as how the tests would be delivered and assessed.
Previously known as PerfectSight, EyeNetra developed a device called NetraG that can be applied to mobile phones to create a smartphone vision test. The device can generate a recommended power for each person’s eyeglasses and contact lenses. It is designed to test for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. It also measures for the distance between eyes. Its website claims its technology is as accurate as autorefractors, but a good deal less expensive than their $45,000 price tag.
The company also is developing a data analytics component to identify patterns and trends to develop specific recommendations for each patient.
Although it is not intended as a replacement for an eye exam, the company sees its biggest value in providing easy access to eye exams in developing countries with the NetraG device. Undiagnosed refractive errors in the eye are among the leading causes of blindness. By identifying these problems earlier, the device could improve outcomes for easily treatable conditions.
Schafran said he formed the company in 2010 with two other technologists in the MIT Media Lab — Ramesh Raskar, the Chief Scientific Officer and director of the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab and Vitor Pamplona, the Chief Technology Officer. “I came from a family of optometrists, so I was excited by the prospect of the technology,” Schafran said. “We knew that we could bring a lot of people together who typically don’t have access to each other. It is about connecting people through a service.”
He added that the company has worked with optometrists, ophthalmologists and eye clinics to ensure everything it’s doing is at the highest quality. Among EyeNetra’s clinical partners are New England College of Optometry, LV Prasad Eye Institute and Lotus Eye Institute and Hospital.
Khosla Ventures and Khosla Impact are listed as investors, although Schafran would not confirm the investors participating in the Series A round or whether they were investing in the company for the first time.
Schafran said the company is in the midst of clinical trials in Boston and outside the country. The company’s website confirms the device has been tested in India.
Among the company’s advisers are Dr. Jay Duker, chairman of ophthalmology at the Tufts Medical Center and the Tufts University School of Medicine; Frank Moss, the head of the New Media Medicine group; and Bruce Moor, a professor of pediatric studies at the New England College of Optometry.
Unfortunately, many will consider this a replacement for an eye exam. Although as stated, this is not a replacement, there are quite a few that will believe it is. Smart Phones do not have the imaging sensors required to do high quality images. Their consumer grade sensors have far too many bad pixels and poor spectral response to be used for clinical applications & treatment. As just a screening device to identify potential problems is all that would be capable of a smart phone device.