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US investors back Australian innovation in optical health
Wed, 17th May 2023

New York-based health tech company, Ascertain, is investing AUD $18 million in Eyetelligence, a company that, through the power of AI, equips optometry for disease detection. 

Melbourne-based Eyetelligence uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology and retinal imaging to screen for eye and systemic diseases.

The technology is based on the inventions of Professor Mingguang He, a clinician-scientist at the University of Melbourne and the Centre for Eye Research Australia. Professor Mingguang He was then joined by commercial healthcare leader Jason Sun to found Eyetelligence and now Optain.

Eyetelligence has developed a suite of clinically validated and regulatory-approved AI-enabled products already commercialised in the Australian, New Zealand, European, and Japanese markets. 

Eyetelligence’s products are used by the Bupa Optical and George & Matilda optometry chains in Australia.

"The three most common eye diseases: diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, can be detected far earlier with algorithmic retinal image analysis,” said Professor Mingguang He. 

“These three diseases, however, are just the tip of the iceberg.

"The eye is a window through which we can discern any disease that affects the microvascular system. 

"This technology allows clinicians to act faster and prevent significant impacts on quality of life.

“I welcome the support of Ascertain, who sees the potential of Eyetelligence’s technology for the US and is committed to identifying and accelerating the use of emerging AI technologies to drive significant health benefits globally,” says Professor Mingguang He.

Eyetelligence is the first international investment by Ascertain in a first-of-its-kind partnership between Aegis Ventures and Northwell Health.

Ascertain says it is committed to accelerating the development of healthcare AI companies globally with a specific eye on Australia.

Daniel Boyer, Deputy CEO at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), also comments: "Australia has a successful track record of health and biomedical innovations that have been scaled up internationally.”

“Our world-class universities, highly skilled talent and complementary regulatory environment make our health tech ecosystem a global leader.

“Ascertain’s investment in Eyetelligence is a nod to Australia’s cutting-edge biotech sector and shows we are increasingly a partner of choice for US investors,” says Mr Boyer.

Eyetelligence will be rebranded and launched in the US as Optain, aiming to enable non-invasive point-of-care technology to diagnose various diseases more rapidly, cost-effectively, and accessibly. 

The Ascertain collaboration will accelerate Optain’s Australian technology availability in American markets while Eyetelligence continues to expand under its current brand in Australia and other international markets.

Jeff Dunkel, CEO of Optain, adds: “The healthcare industry has made a concerted effort in recent years to shift treatment from reactive sick care to proactive preventive care, but many of the legacy screening and diagnostic technologies used by clinicians today are expensive and inaccessible.”

“Optain will accelerate that shift and make preventive care ubiquitous by placing smarter, faster, and more efficient diagnostic tools in the hands of clinicians everywhere.

“The most immediate opportunity for impact is within ophthalmology.

"Optain’s first goal is to expand access to screenings and diagnosis for preventable eye disease, closing critical health equity gaps, particularly in underserved communities where diagnostic and screening tools aren’t available,” says the CEO of Optain.