Prof. Alon Harris is a leading researcher in diseases of the retina and is running a start-up called AdOM. "After spending 20 years in the US absorbed in my work, but always connected to Israel, I received an email from the founders of AdOM: engineer Yossi Weitzman and physicist Dr. Yoel Arieli. They developed the signal processing method on which the company's product is based. They reached me due to my work in this area, without even knowing that I was Israeli," Harris says. The company's name hints at the technology the company uses - a wavelength close to infrared - but it is also the initials of Advanced Optical Methods.
Diseases of the retina, including Glaucoma, AMD (age-related macular degeneration) and diabetic macular degeneration, are the leading cause of blindness in the developed world, and are a serious problem in developing countries as well. Treatment of these diseases is considerably more effective when they are diagnosed at an early stage, before irreparable damage has occurred.
It is possible today to perform a high-resolution 3D scan of the eye with a laser using extremely expensive equipment ($90,000-130,000) that is also complicated to operate. On the other hand, an x-ray of the eye can be taken using visible light, which can produce an inadequately low resolution 2D picture.
Recently, a new technology has been developed that can do a 3D scan of the eye using light, at a wavelength that is close to infrared. The technology enables 3D imaging of the eye without the use of lasers, which are still too expensive and complicated to operate. In the US, there are currently 33,000 ophthalmology treatment centers, at which 110 million eye exams are carried out every year, which are indemnified by insurance companies at well under a hundred dollars, making profitability low.
AdOM developed an improved technology based on infrared light by different readings of a letter reflected from the eye. AdOM's software analyzes light interferometers (the interference of waves on each other) and its color, which is reflected differently in different tissues. This technology is simpler and cheaper than those currently in use.
AdOM's method can also analyze the eye's metabolic activity, or the rate at which eye cells consume energy. This capability enables the differentiation between types of cells, such as healthy cells from sick cells, or cancerous cells from regular ones. "Metabolic analysis of the eye is considered the next thing in eye diseases diagnostics field, but until now the equipment was too expensive and complicated for clinics to use," Harris says.
The company is currently in advanced stages of product development, and hopes to begin sales in the US within a year, based on existing insurance companies reimbursement policies. AdOM's main challenge will be to convince clinics that already have equipment to upgrade, and to convince clinics that do not yet have equipment to purchase AdOM's technology.
So far, AdOM has raised $1 million from US investors, and is interested in raising another $3.5 million.
The next stage
AdOM is currently engaged in the development of additional ophthalmic products that do not require high initial investment, some of which are even appropriate for the end-user, such as a device that measures intraocular pressure, the leading cause of damage from Glaucoma. The product is based on an eye scan technology.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 26, 2012
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