A Made in In­dia Ret­ina Scan­ner for Faster, Cheaper Ex­am­i­na­tion

MII Ret­cam may be ready for com­mer­cial launch next month at .₹ 20k

The Economic Times - - Companies - Vikas.Dan­dekar @times­group.com

Mum­bai: The oph­thal­mol­o­gist takes out her phone and clamps what looks like a show­er­head to the de­vice. But in place of the wa­ter spout, there’s a big lens, which is now ex­actly aligned with that of the phone’s cam­era. She taps the MII Ret­cam app, an­gles the con­trap­tion so that it pro­vides a clear view of the pa­tient’s eye and takes a pic­ture. One reti­nal scan done. The MII Ret­cam has been de­vel­oped by a team led by Ashish Sharma, a ret­ina spe­cial­ist in the south­ern In­dian tex­tile town of Coim­bat­ore, and will be ready for com­mer­cial launch next month at .₹ 20,000 for oph­thal­mol­o­gists and .₹ 15,000 for med­i­cal schools.

That com­pares with the price of reti­nal scan ma­chines cur­rently in the mar­ket rang­ing from .₹ 5 lakh to .₹ 1 crore, de­pend­ing on fea­tures and spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

The de­vice of­fers the prospect of dras­ti­cally low­er­ing the cost of such scans, which are a cru­cial el­e­ment of di­a­betes man­age­ment. Apart from ex­ac­er­bat­ing car­diac risks, di­a­betes can also cause se­vere dam­age to the kid­neys and the eyes — hence the need for reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing. Be­sides, the num­ber of peo­ple need­ing th­ese checks is set to in­crease ex­po­nen­tially given In­dia’s di­a­betes epi­demic.

Lancet said re­cently that In­dia ranks at No.1for male deaths from di­a­betes. The In­ter­na­tional Di­a­betes Fed­er­a­tion has es­ti­mated that In­dia will have 101 mil­lion pa-

ON MII RET­CAM

vice that was cheap, could shoot high-qual­ity images and be por­ta­ble enough for use in re­mote ar­eas.

Be­sides be­ing light and in­creas­ingly ubiq­ui­tous, Sharma re­alised the smart­phone cam­era’s aut­o­fo­cus ca­pa­bil­i­ties give it a dis­tinct edge over com­pa­ra­ble de­vices. The de­vice that he and the team came up with is ca­pa­ble of tak­ing images of the ret­ina in the kind of de­tail that’s needed to check for dam­age.

It’s also suitable for use in In­dia’s vil­lages, which lack med­i­cal in­fras­truc­ture and are grossly un­der-served, Sharma told ET.

The de­vice is to be pre­sented at the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Ret­ina Spe­cial­ists at its an­nual meet­ing in Au­gust in San Fran­cisco, Sharma said.

The de­vice weighs about 100 grams and if plans go ahead as sched­uled, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi may launch the de­vice as a model for the high-pro­file Make in In­dia cam­paign. (The MII in the name stands for the lo­cal­man­u­fac­tur­ing ini­tia­tive.)

The ma­chines used to scan reti­nas cur­rently in most hos­pi­tals are made by Zeiss, Topcon, Canon or Nidek, said Sharma, who is ret­ina spe­cial­ist at Lo­tus Eye Hospi­tal and In­sti­tute in Coim­bat­ore.

“Those de­vices are heav­ily loaded, be­sides be­ing ex­or­bi­tantly priced im­ped­ing their use and avail­abil­ity in a country like In­dia,” he noted. Porta­bil­ity isn’t ex­actly a strong point of the ma­chines. The MII Ret­cam has a sim­ple de- sign helped by a ball ro­ta­tor, which in­creases the ma­neu­ver­abil­ity of the cam­era lens and en­ables clear pic­tures from any an­gle. As for ex­ter­nal light, the flash of the phone is enough, Sharma said.

More im­por­tantly, the MII Ret­cam can pen­e­trate to the deep­est ar­eas of the ret­ina like the ora ser­rata, which is the point of tran­si­tion from the non-pho­to­sen­si­tive area to the com­plex, multi-lay­ered pho­to­sen­si­tive re­gion. Some well­known fun­dus low-power mi­cro­scopic cam­eras have failed in this, Sharma said. Sharma said the MII Ret­cam’s imag­ing qual­ity is com­pa­ra­ble to those of ex­ist­ing de­vices. Be­sides, the low weight means a ret­ina spe­cial­ist can use it with one hand.

There’s a sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket right here in In­dia, he pointed out. In­dia has about 20,000 reg­is­tered oph­thal­mol­o­gists, of which 15,000 do not have fun­dus cam­eras due to the high prices.

Also, Sharma said he has re­ceived en­quiries from 52 coun­tries. He’s filed for a patent on the prod­uct in In­dia while the process for an in­ter­na­tional patent ap­pli­ca­tion has been ini­ti­ated.

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