Using AI for eye disease detection, Optain launches with $12M seed

Steven Loeb · May 9, 2023 · Short URL:

Optain is the first company to come out of Ascertain from Northwell Health and Aegis Ventures

In April 2022, Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, and Aegis Ventures, a New York-based startup studio, came together to create Ascertain, with the goal of developing and commercializing breakthrough healthcare artificial intelligence companies.

A little over a year later, Ascertain now has its first company on the market: Optain, an artificial intelligence company that enables early identification and disease prevention through retinal imaging. The company officially launched on Tuesday, along with a $12 million seed round from undisclosed investors. 

With Optain, providers take retinal images using the Optain camera, and then its AI algorithms immediately analyze images. The company then generates a risk assessment report on various health conditions, including those that are ophthalmological, cardiovascular, and neurological, such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. 

This technology, which was developed by Professor Mingguang He, a  clinician-scientist at the University of Melbourne and Centre for Eye Research Australia, is already being sold internationally by Eyetelligence, a company launch in 2019. Already on the market in countries including Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, and the Middle East, where it has received regulatory approval, Eyetelligence will continue to expand both in Australia and in other international markets going forward, while Ascertain will facilitate and accelerate the availability of Optain's advanced capabilities in the United States, with Northwell Health as Optain's flagship commercial customer. 

Ascertain will look to expedite the pathway to regulatory approval in the U.S. as well.

While Optain is the first company being launched through the partnership between Northwell Health and Aegis Ventures, it is not the first time the two entities have worked together: in November 2022 they signed an agreement to launch Upliv, a virtual menopause care company, outside of the Ascertain brand; additionally, in March, Ascertain announced a new algorithm for predicting preeclampsia tackling worsening maternal mortality rates.

"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," Jeff Dunkel, CEO of Optain, said in a statement.

"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."

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