It was a visit with a doctor to a care home in North Wales that confirmed to Aston Vision Sciences Ltd. founder Dr. Karl Obszanski that his plans for a new eye care diagnostic device were headed along the right lines. Meeting the doctor outside the care home Obszanski noticed that the clinician he was shadowing had with him “a large suitcase”. Despite being in a popular holiday region, his informant was not going on holiday. Rather the bulky case was required to carry all of the different pieces of optical health diagnostic equipment that the doctor required on their rounds.
Following his PhD at Aston University, Obszanski was awarded a highly competitive Innovate UK ICure grant . Whilst a research student he had researched optical health diagnostic devices and assessed existing technologies and products strengths and weaknesses. The ICure grant enabled him to further develop his thoughts about existing devices, as well as enabling him to meet and speak with end users of the technologies working in the field. This period of research and development took him to Germany, Lombardy, the American Mid-West and Spain, however; it was spending time with practitioners in North Wales which showed him that he was on the right track.
Whilst working on his PhD Obszanski had developed a broad understanding of the challenges current optical health diagnostic devices possess for clinicians and the limitations that they place on patient care. What he came to realise whilst a research student is “a lot of existing medical devices are actually repackaged from existing versions. In many cases the underlying basis of the technology may be several hundred years old, and when new products and models come out manufacturers are just adding a few new features”. Another problem is that each device can only conduct one, or a very limited range of tests, whilst being very expensive. When he was shadowing clinicians in Wales Obszanski noticed that many of the devices they used dated back thirty of forty years to the 1980s and 1990s, because whilst they continued to function replacing them was not a budgetary priority.
To tackle these challenges Aston Vision Sciences was formed nearly three years ago to scale up and commercialise the research Obszanski’s research. The device being developed by the Aston Vision Sciences team comprises “a lunchbox sized product” which utilises photographic and video technology to enable clinicians to perform comprehensive, front to back examinations on patient’s eyes. The product’s diminutive size and flexible capabilities enable it to overcome the pitfalls and limitations of current optical health diagnostic tools.
According to Obszanski the prototype device has “been really well received by clinicians” and other potential end users who are “really interested and excited by the possibility of a single handheld product which can be used to carry out multiple types of analysis on patients’ eyes”. Once widely available for clinical use Aston Visions Sciences’ device will mean the days of doctors lugging around suitcases of equipment are well and truly over.
The potential benefits of the device’s deployment across healthcare systems worldwide are enormous. Obszanski’s enthusiasm for his company’s product is driven by its potential to increase efficiency and reduce costs in developed countries, and to expand access to eye medical care in developing countries, ensuring better patient outcomes worldwide.
Aston Vision Sciences are now based in their own premises in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, a world leading centre of precision manufacturing with a pedigree of centuries. The regulatory requirements for medical devices are exacting and take time and resources to achieve. However, this summer – in partnership with the University of Warwick’s WMG – they intend to begin working with manufacturers who’ll be able to bring their devices to market. Obszanski’s hope is that once scaled up and available for sale Aston Vision Sciences will have created “a really slick device which is a pleasure to use” benefiting patients worldwide.
Images used in this feature were supplied by Karl Obszanski. All rights reserved.