Reperio, a MedTech spin-off of the Ophthalmology department of the University Medical Center Groningen, was founded at the end of 2019 by Dr. Alessandro Grillini. What started as a little side-project during Grillini's Ph.D. has now become a startup with a team of 7 and an international network of research and industry partners.
The company's mission is to make healthcare more inclusive and affordable by developing innovative diagnostic tests using eye movement. Reperio's tests detect degenerative retinal conditions like Glaucoma at early stages using a combination of 3D-printed wearable eye trackers and recurrent neural networks. Thanks to this innovative technology, Reperio's solution cuts assessment times by 80% and, for the first time, enables accurate diagnostic testing outside hospitals.
Reperio started by tackling how Glaucoma is diagnosed. The golden standard approach to detecting Glaucoma combines anatomical tests (like fundus photography and OCT) with functional ones (like visual field testing).Functional tests, however, are time-consuming and challenging to perform, the reason for which are rarely done outside hospitals. “Since GPs and opticians are not equipped to perform these tests, they default to refer the patients to hospitals. This, coupled with the scarcity of eye specialists, causes extremely long waiting times for patients, who often suffer from degenerative diseases with terrible consequences. Step by step, one test at a time, we aim to democratize access to specialist care in Ophthalmology and beyond” says Dr. Grillini.
With ELISE funding, Reperio intends to develop the first truly automatic and objective visual field test that can be deployed anywhere. This will be done by training a recurrent neural network with eye-tracking data of patients performing a simple and intuitive visual task. “Beyond the mapping of visual field sensitivity, what we want to achieve is the development of an algorithm capable of telling if the visual field defect is glaucomatous (i.e. caused by the presence of Glaucoma) or not, as well as predicting the degenerative loss over time” adds Dr. Grillini.
By expanding the network for detecting Glaucoma, Reperio generates societal and financial benefits. Of the 70 million people affected by Glaucoma, more than 60% are in developing countries with severely limited access to healthcare*. Reperio’s testing setup fits in a small backpack and can be deployed anywhere at a fraction of the cost of existing devices.
In Europe, Glaucoma costs 2 billion every year, both for direct costs associated with treatment and indirect expenses caused by the visual impairment. Having a widespread early detection tool will not only save the sight of millions of people but also millions of euros (approx. €15.000 per patient per year in savings)*.
Reperio’s future plans are ambitious. “We would love to see our solution where it can generate maximum value: among first-line healthcare providers such as GPs and opticians. The plan for the upcoming years is to expand our IP portfolio by developing more tests for other diseases measurable with eye movement. We already have R&D initiatives concerning pediatric oncology, movement disorders, and endocrinology. In the long run, our vision is to use our portable setup to create a widespread network to screen for any neuro-visual disorder, at any place, at any time” says Dr. Grillini.
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More about the ELISE 1st Open call and awarded companies is available here.