A Made in India Retina Scanner for Faster, Cheaper Examination
MII Retcam may be ready for commercial launch next month at .₹ 20k
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.