Professor Mathias Abegg, MD, is a neuro-ophthalmologist. He is the medical director of machineMD. In his everyday medical work, he deals with eye movement disorders such as strabismus. In addition, he has been doing basic research on eye movements for many years and uses eye tracking and pupil tracking for this. This is how the idea came about to use this technology for medical issues. We talked to him about the advantages of neos - the neurophthalmoscope, the first results of the research prototypes and further milestones.
Mathias Abegg, you are the brain behind neos - the neurophthalmoscope. What do you hope to achieve with this new examination method?
Today, the examination of eye movement disorders and pupil disorders is a time-consuming manual affair that requires a lot of practice. The results are often only qualitative. Eye tracking allows a quantitative analysis and is in many ways easier, faster and more accurate than a manual examination. I have noticed that eye tracking sees more than I do in some situations. This gave rise to the idea of making these possibilities available to everyone.
Where do you see the big advantages of this solution?
Our device provides a solid basic neuro-ophthalmic examination. This specialised examination is available to everyone, not just people with years of additional training. The examination is always complete, quantitative, and it is quick. This has the advantage that all users are examined with the same standard and so the results are more comparable. As a clinician, I gain time that I can hopefully use for the benefit of the patient.
Where are you today in the development? What does neos - the neurophthalmoscope look like today?
The actual product development is at the very beginning. However, we have very advanced research prototypes that have already integrated almost all the functions of our future device. In the scientific context, these prototypes are in daily use and we already know that they work well.
What studies have already been done? What are the first results?
We have checked the reliability of the individual measurements with several scientific studies. These studies show that the measurements are as good as when they are made by an experienced expert in this subspecialty. The larger clinical studies investigating the clinical benefit of our device as a whole package are not yet completed. It will probably be a few years before all the data is published.
How do you assess the market potential?
I see that most brain diseases are reflected in some way in eye and pupil movements. Drugs are increasingly available for these diseases. These in turn depend on early detection and good monitoring. The market for our services is correspondingly huge. I hope that we can take the lead in this field. For a more realistic assessment, you would probably have to ask people outside of our company.
Is the device only meant for specialists like you?
No, on the contrary: we want to make the specialist expertise available to every ophthalmologist and neurologist. Also, to those who have other clinical focuses in their daily routine.
What does the path to market launch look like? Do you need an approval procedure for the market launch?
neos - the neurophthalmoscope is a medical device and needs an approval procedure. That is a long and very demanding road. In our 5-person founding team, one person is dealing exclusively with this aspect. We hope to be able to sell the first device by the end of 2023.
You are a professor at the university hospital. How intensively can you devote yourself to your project?
My time management is an eternal juggling act. I also have a family, hobbies and free time. In principle, my tasks in the clinic, research and the development project cross-fertilise each other. What I do in one area helps me in the other. I have reserved one day a week for machineMD.