San Diego-based Freedom Meditech says today it has raised $7 million in a Series B financing round to roll out a new medical technology that would enable optometrists and ophthalmologists to screen their patients for diabetes during routine eye exams.
“This is a first-in-kind product,” Freedom Meditech CEO Craig Misrach told me a few weeks ago, during the 2013 American Optometric Association conference at the San Diego Convention Center, where the company’s ClearPath DS-120 Lens Fluorescence Biomicroscope made its debut. “There is no technology currently approved by the FDA that non-invasively detects autofluoresence of the eye.”
Freedom Meditech’s biomicrosope is a free-standing ocular examination device, priced at about $35,000 apiece, and represents a new revenue stream for eye-care professionals, Misrach said.
The technology uses a blue light to scan the eye, which causes the lens of the eye to emit light naturally, or autofluoresce. A sensor measures the intensity of the autofluoresence, which is correlated to the presence of sugar molecules in the eye lens. Higher autofluorescence measurements have been linked to higher levels of sugared proteins that accumulate from aging and the presence of systemic disease, the company says.
The FDA cleared Freedom Meditech’s device for use in the United States earlier this year.
The scan, which could be part of a comprehensive eye exam or offered separately at an estimated cost of $35 per exam, amounts to a screening test that measures patients’ likely susceptibility to diabetes, Misrach said. Patients with a higher autofluorescence score would be referred to a diabetes specialist for a definitive diagnosis.
But Misrach said where only about 40 million Americans get their blood drawn and are routinely tested for diabetes each year, close to 100 million people undergo an annual eye exam. He contends that Freedom Meditech’s biomicroscope would make diabetes screening easier and more accessible, and could lead to earlier diabetes diagnoses.
JumpStart, a nonprofit venture development organization based in Cleveland, OH, invested $380,000 in Freedom Meditech in 2008 as part of an undisclosed Series A round. Since the company was founded in 2006, it has secured more than $10 million in private financing, mostly from wealthy individual investors, Misrach said.
In addition to building out its sales and marketing capabilities, Freedom Meditech says proceeds of the round would be used to support the clinical development of the I-SugarX, a non-invasive personal glucose meter for use by diabetics.