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Gobiquity raises $6M to expand vision screening app for children to more devices, markets

The company wants to make its GoCheckKids photoscreening app available to improve access to screening for amblyopia and visual acuity.

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Gobiquity, which has developed a digital health eye screening app to flag risk factors for amblyopia and a visual acuity test, has made its first close on a $6 million Series B round to support product development and market expansion. CEO Andrew Burns hinted at these developments in an interview last year.

In a phone interview, Burns said InterWest Partners was the sole investor in the first close of the Series B, but expects to announce at least one new, strategic investor in October. Salesforce Founder and CEO Marc Benioff has previously invested in the company, but Burns declined to comment whether he would be participating in the latest funding round.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Gobiquity’s amblyopia screening test is Class 2, 510(k) exempt medical device and Burns said the company has met the requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Amblyopia is the leading cause of permanent vision loss in children—including near- and farsightedness as well as “lazy eye.” The visual acuity test is considered a Class 1 device.

Burns noted that the biggest challenge the company seeks to solve is access to vision screening. Although there are 20 million to 25 million children under 6 years old in the U.S., there are only 1,000 pediatric ophthalmologists to care for them. Beyond pediatricians, the company wants to make its GoCheckKids photo screening app available to family physicians, school nurses and other medical professionals. The company also wants to extend the screening platform to caregivers.

Burns said 2,000 physicians had downloaded GoCheckKids in the past year. Doctors are charged a subscription fee for using the platform. The company seeks to grow its customer base in less populated areas of the U.S., as well as globally in the next 12 months.

One development in Gobiquity’s favor, which Burns referenced was the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ move last year to strengthen recommendations for early vision screening and more frequent screenings.

On the product development side, Burns likened the visual acuity test it added to “taking the eye chart to the smart phone” in a gamified experience for children aged 7 to 14.

“We wanted to have expanded utility to be a platform that can provide more opportunities to identify risk factors for vision issues, so medical professionals can refer these patients to a specialist, and monitor them on an ongoing basis. This past year, we really focused on taking our offering from a smartphone with our app pre-loaded on it to make it available as an app for iPhone 6.” He added that it would accelerate distribution on other smartphones. Next year, it plans to make the app available to Android users.

Longterm, Burns said the Scottsdale, Arizona business plans to develop vision screening tools for young and mature adults in areas such as retinal diseases.