EDINBURGH University will today launch a company that is targeting a market worth more than $800 million (about £500m) by allowing doctors to accurately test the vision of children and vulnerable adults for the first time.
I2eye Diagnostics has raised a “six-figure sum” from Glasgow-based business angel syndicate Kelvin Capital and from its directors to prove that there is a market for its product.
Serial life sciences entrepreneur Peter Estibeiro – who has raised more than £6m for early-stage companies and was one of the founders of Glasgow-based Sistemic – has been signed up as chief executive. He has teamed up with chief technology officer Charlie Wardrop, a former product manager at Dunfermline-based eye scanner maker Optos.
The firm’s first product combines a computer screen and eye-tracking device with special software that allows doctors to record the eye movements of young children and adults who find it difficult to concentrate, such as people with dementia.
Devices that can measure the responses of patients’ eyes are already common place in high-street opticians’ shops, with customers asked to click a button each time they see a light.
But children and vulnerable adults cannot use existing equipment because it requires them to stare straight ahead and concentrate for up to eight minutes.
Estibeiro told The Scotsman he is currently applying for a licence from European regulators to sell the equipment as a medical device and that he will then seek United States Food & Drugs Administration approval to market it in America. He hopes to have the first devices ready to ship by the middle of next month – he already has five orders.
Estibeiro said: “The current machines on the market haven’t changed in the past 20 years. Our equipment is a generation ahead of anything else currently available and widens the market to include children and vulnerable adults for the very first time.”
He said the company would look to raise a “seven-figure sum” from investors over the summer or in the autumn so that it can break into the American market.
The market for the device is estimated to be worth $280m in the US alone, with similar potential in Asia and in Europe.
Robert Minns, professor of paediatric neurology at Edinburgh University, has spent five years developing the device alongside consultant ophthalmologist Professor Brian Fleck, and medical physicists Harry Brash and Ian Murray.
I2eye Diagnostics has been launched with help from Edinburgh BioQuarter, the body set up by Edinburgh University, NHS Lothian and Scottish Enterprise to commercialise university research and attract companies into the science park at Little France, next to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Although I2eye is the third company to be launched by the BioQuarter, it is the first to attract external investment.