US investors back Australian innovation with investment in AI

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New York-based health tech company creation platform Ascertain is investing US$12 million in Eyetelligence, a Melbourne-based company that uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology and retinal imaging to screen for eye and systemic diseases.

The technology is based on the inventions of Dr Mingguang He, a leading clinician-scientist at the University of Melbourne and the Centre for Eye Research Australia, who was joined by commercial healthcare leader Jason Sun to found Eyetelligence and now Optain.

Eyetelligence has developed a suite of clinically validated and regulatory-approved AI-enabled products already being commercialised in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Japanese markets.

Eyetelligence’s products are used by the Bupa Optical and George and Matilda optometry chains in Australia.

"The three most common eye diseases – diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma – can be detected far earlier with algorithmic retinal image analysis. These three diseases, however, are just the tip of the iceberg," said Professor Mingguang He.

"The eye is a window through which we can discern any disease that affects the microvascular system. This technology allows clinicians to act faster and prevent significant impacts on quality of life."

“I welcome the support of Ascertain who sees the potential of Eyetelligence’s technology for the US and is committed to identifying and accelerating the use of emerging AI technologies to drive significant health benefits globally,” said Professor He, the co-founder of Eyetelligence.

Eyetelligence is the first international investment by Ascertain, a first-of-its-kind partnership between Aegis Ventures, a next-generation healthcare-focused venture studio, and Northwell Health, one of the largest health systems in the US. 

"Australia has a successful track record of health and biomedical innovations that have been scaled up internationally. Our world-class universities, highly skilled talent and complementary regulatory environment make our healthtech ecosystem a global leader,” said Daniel Boyer, the deputy CEO at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade). “Ascertain’s investment in Eyetelligence is a nod to Australia’s cutting-edge biotech sector and shows we are increasingly a partner of choice for US investors.”

Eyetelligence will be rebranded and launched in the US as Optain and aims to enable non-invasive point-of-care technology to diagnose a range of diseases more rapidly, cost-effectively, and accessibly. 

“The healthcare industry has made a concerted effort in recent years to shift treatment from reactive sick-care to proactive preventive care, but many of the legacy screening and diagnostic technologies used by clinicians today are expensive and inaccessible,” said Jeff Dunkel, the CEO of Optain. “Optain will accelerate that shift and make preventive care ubiquitous by placing smarter, faster, and more efficient diagnostic tools in the hands of clinicians everywhere.”

“The most immediate opportunity for impact is within ophthalmology,” added Dunkel. "Optain’s first goal is to expand access to screenings and diagnosis for preventable eye disease, closing critical health equity gaps, particularly in underserved communities where diagnostic and screening tools aren’t available."