EyeNetra raises $4M for eye diagnostic smartphone peripheral

By Aditi Pai
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EyeNetra Netra-GSomerville, Massachusetts-based eye diagnostic tool maker EyeNetra raised $4 million from one investor, according to an SEC filing. This brings EyeNetra's total funding to at least $7 million.

Previously disclosed EyeNetra investors include Khosla Ventures and Khosla Impact, which invests in companies that are developing products for populations in India, Africa, and Latin America.

The company, which spun off from The MIT Media Lab Camera Culture Group, developed a smartphone peripheral, called Netra-G, that measures nearsightedness, farsightedness, age related blurriness, pupillary distance, and astigmatism. After the test, the companion app connects the user to healthcare providers and vendors depending on his or her eye condition.

Once the device is ready for commercialization, EyeNetra, which has previously said the device costs $2 to manufacture, aims to sell its device at a low price point. It will be significantly less expensive than "top-tier autorefractors" that the company says sell for up to $45,000.

The company expects consumers to use the product with their eye doctor and emphasizes that it is not a substitute for a full eye exam. EyeNetra's clinical validation partners are India-based LV Prasad Eye Institute, Boston-based New England College of Optometry, and India-based Lotus Eye Hospital and Institute.

Last year, Camera Culture Group Head Dr. Ramesh Raskar spoke at TEDMED about the group’s newest project, called eyeMITRA. Unlike EyeNetra, this device doesn’t snap on to mobile phones, instead eyeMITRA is a pair of smart glasses that displays a realtime image of the wearer’s fundus. Raskar said the technology could be useful as an inexpensive, smaller diagnostic tool for early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes which can lead to blindness.

At least three other companies are also working on providing low-cost eye screening tools.

Aliso Viejo, California-based iCheck Health Connection raised $750,816 last August to develop products that would screen for eye diseases. Since then, the company changed their name to Gobiquity and launched their first product, a smartphone app, called GoCheck Kids, that uses photoscreening features to test users for the risk factors for amblyopia, a functional disorder of the eye that typically come from squinting and can lead to severe visual impairment. According to the website, amblyopia is the number one cause of childhood blindness.

Another company targeting amblyopia is Berlin-based Caterna Vision Therapy. In April, the company became the developer of the first mobile medical app in Germany to be prescribed to patients by physicians that also has reimbursement in place from a health plan. Caterna’s online program for children with amblyopia will be reimbursed by health insurance provider Barmer GEK and available through a partnership with Ocunet, a nationwide eye care center and practices chain.

In April 2013, the FDA granted Class II prescription-only 510(K) clearance for an iPhone-enabled vision test. The software, called myVisionTrack, was developed by Vital Art and Science. It offers a test for patients with serious degenerative eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy (DR) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), who will be able to use it to monitor their vision regularly at home. The software compares results to previous results, and can automatically alert a physician if a significant change has occurred. The FDA clearance applies to the software when run on an iPhone 4S.