May 26, 2022

If you accidentally drop an eye sensor designed by Injectsense, you have little chance of finding it. Founder and CEO Ariel Cao acknowledges this. But once it’s implanted in the back of your eye, it can stay there virtually motionless for 80 years, transmitting data.

Startup Injusense, founded in 2014, has developed an eye implant smaller than a grain of rice. This device can measure intraocular pressure, a measure of how much stress builds up in your eyeball. Intraocular pressure is a major risk factor for glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve and eventually leads to blindness.

You’ve probably already measured intraocular pressure before, and this is not particularly pleasant. In this procedure, your eye doctor gives you pain drops, puts your head under a clear microscope, and touches your eye with an instrument called a tonometer.

On the other hand, the Injectsense implant is designed to continuously transmit this data wirelessly after it has been inserted.

“He collects all the information, so there is nothing for you to do,” Cao told gaming-updates. “You can sit around it. You can skydive, walk, do whatever you want.”

The Injectsense device will be inserted into the body through a small, non-surgical procedure. It’s like an intravitreal injection, where a small needle is injected into the back of the eye—you feel pressure but don’t feel pain when it’s pierced.

The device can be charged by wearing the glasses for 5 minutes every week, which allows the device to upload intraocular pressure readings to the cloud, where they can be viewed by an ophthalmologist. Cao says the battery can maintain this mode for up to 80 years.

Based on animal studies and in vitro data, Injectsense received a two-year, $1.7 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Eye Institute in March. This is due to the successful FDA device designation it received in 2020 (successful device designations allow for a slightly faster review process). This combination suggests that, at the very least, regulators want to see more data about the Injection device.

The Injectsense device has only been tested on rabbits so far. gaming-updates’s study found that the devices perform well, although the data has not been peer-reviewed. The animals had no visual problems and the devices were successfully implanted.

This new grant will pave the way for more animal and laboratory testing at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute this year.

These tests will also contribute to a pilot human study in Chile, which is also planned for this year. Cao said the team chose Chile for human trials for three reasons: low overall cost, having an experienced review committee at the Centro de la Vision in Santiago, and in particular working with Juan José Mura Castro, a local ophthalmologist.

With Neuralink in the spotlight, measuring intraocular pressure may not seem like a particularly attractive application of injection technology. But the simplicity of the device is both personal and practical.

Cao’s inspiration for his work in the field of glaucoma comes from his experience with his late father, who suffered from the disease. This is not an unusual story. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and the leading cause of blindness in the US, where it affects approximately 3 million people. By 2040, the number of cases of glaucoma in the world is expected to increase from 57.5 million to more than 111.8 million.

When it comes to fighting glaucoma, it’s helpful to measure your blood pressure. Several scientific studies have shown that intraocular pressure is a major risk factor for the development of glaucoma. This is not the only risk factor, and not all people with glaucoma have elevated intraocular pressure, but it is still considered the most important.

Injectsense leadership team.

The big question with any implantable device is what can actually be achieved by implanting a sensor in the body? If we can easily measure intraocular pressure with equipment that ophthalmologists already have, why go for something so technical?

Cao claims that measuring intraocular pressure during clinic visits misses important pressure fluctuations that scientists know occur in the eye. But because we don’t routinely measure these fluctuations in most people, we may be missing out on potential avenues of treatment.

This claim has been supported to some extent by research. While it is possible, although difficult, to measure intraocular pressure routinely during the day, it is difficult to measure these changes at night. And evidence suggests that intraocular pressure fluctuates, possibly even peaking at night.

For example, in one study, intraocular pressure was measured every two hours in 24 patients with early stage glaucoma. The study says the patients were “woken up as needed,” but it’s hard to imagine not being woken up by someone who opened and touched your eye. The study found that glaucoma patients had different patterns of intraocular pressure depending on the time of night compared to healthy controls. For example, between 5:30 and 7:00, their intraocular pressure increased, while the control group decreased.

The authors also state that this “phase delay” may be relevant to their diagnosis of glaucoma, but they do not specify why this may be. And they report that measuring intraocular pressure in the doctor’s office is “probably not enough for optimal treatment of glaucoma.”

Cao argues that further detection could provide insight into how these changes affect the progression of glaucoma.

“We keep seeing clinical trials and studies and they keep telling everyone what the ups and downs are [in pressure], or the pressure of the night is important,” he said. “Night pressure is important because if you lower your blood pressure, your eye pressure goes up.

“So let’s say you have heart disease and glaucoma, you never want to take medication before bed because you [blood] busy and you’re peak [intraocular pressure] Middle of the night.”

Injection technology already exists in a viable form factor, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Remember that Injectsense is still in the animal testing phase, so these big ideas still have a long way to go before they’re ready for FDA review.

The company has raised $15 million so far and is in the process of raising a Series C round. Investors include major ophthalmic strategic and exploration partners, as well as a number of unnamed investors.

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