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D. Puig (URV-UP2Smart); J. Vendrell (IISPV director); J.L. Falcó (Genesis Biomed CEO); P. Puig (UP2Smart); and P. Romero (IISPV). Photo: Genesis.

Genesis Biomed promotes, as a venture builder, the creation of the spin-off RetinaReadRisk

The more than 10 years of work by researchers from the Pere Virgili Health Research Institute (IISPV) and the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) in the field of diabetic retinopathy (a very common eye condition in people with diabetes of type 2) has recently crystallized in the constitution of the spin-off RetinaReadRisk, which will market software and a mobile system based on artificial intelligence to detect and treat this pathology in the early stages. The Genesis Biomed consultancy, based in the Barcelona Science Park, has acted as a venture builder, co-founding, investing and currently assuming the duties of interim CEO of the company.

RetinaReadRisk has been founded by the IISPV; the spin-off UP2Smart, born at the URV; the telecommunications operator Grupo TRC; and Genesis Biomed, within the framework of a project supported by EIT Health. The new company hopes to attract private and public funding in the next 2-3 years for an approximate amount of 5 million euros to be able to finalize the development of the product and commercialize it.

In Catalonia, the test to detect diabetic retinopathy (consists of examining the fundus of the eye with a non-mydriatic camera) is carried out in certain primary care centers (CAP), mostly located in cities. Precisely, one of the objectives of the spin-off is to integrate this mobile system and the computer programs developed with the help of artificial intelligence to the entire Catalan public health system, so that people can be explored by their doctor without the need for commute.

To make it possible, this project will be submitted to a call by the Department of Health of the Generalitat de Catalunya that selects the most innovative technological solutions to integrate them into the public network of primary care centers. On the other side, the fact that the spin- off RetinaReadRisk has been created within the framework of an EIT Health project expands its business opportunities to other territories and countries.

Biomed has acted as a Venture Building platform, has invested in the spin-off through its investment vehicle Genesis Tech Transfer Boost, and is currently assuming the duties of interim CEO of the company. In the words of Josep Lluís Falcó, CEO of GENESIS Biomed: “We are facing a huge opportunity that can change the paradigm of diabetic patient management, anticipating their potential evolution towards diabetic retinopathy. We offer a powerful tool that will end up leading to significant savings for the national health system.”

Artificial intelligence in health

“The research carried out in recent years by the IISPV and the URV in the fields of diabetic retinopathy and artificial intelligence led to the development of two software: Mira, which allows a reading to be carried out automatic of the images of the fundus of the patient’s eye and which, therefore, will identify whether or not diabetic retinopathy exists; and a second software, the Retiprogram, which, based on a series of clinical and personal data, determines the risk of a person with type 2 diabetes of suffering from diabetic retinopathy, in addition to calculating when the next control must be carried out”, explains Pere Romero, researcher in charge of the Ophthalmology Research Group of the IISPV.

The basis of the Mira program is Deep Learning: thousands of images are taken of the fundus of the patient’s eye, and these are labeled according to the degree of evolution of diabetic retinopathy. In this way, the software developed by the URV team analyzes these thousands of images with the help of artificial intelligence, learns to distinguish the various degrees of retinopathy and classifies them based on the patterns it identifies “so that, once new images of patients have been analyzed, a reliable diagnosis can be made based on this previous training”, points out Domènec Puig, researcher in the ITAKA group of the Department of Computer Engineering and Mathematics of the URV and co-founder of UP2Smart, the spin-off of the university which is also one of the member societies of RetinaReadRisk. “Within the framework of the project financed by EIT Health, work is being done on the integration of these two software products in a compact and easy-to-use mobile system”, he adds.

Entrepreneurial initiatives like those of RetinaReadRisk are key to addressing diseases with a high incidence in our society in a more efficient and personalized way. Diabetic retinopathy is a very common condition of the retina in people who suffer from type 2 diabetes (25% of the population in Spain has this type of diabetes). Failure to detect and treat it in the early stages can have significant health consequences, such as a deterioration of night vision that prevents driving or such as blindness (in the case of developing countries).

» For further information: Genesis Biomed website [+]