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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

Diabetic Eye Screener Scans European Market

A software program that scans a human eye looking for retina problems may solve the growing imbalance between the diabetic population and the number of doctors. Last month, Eyenuk Inc., a Woodland Hills medical device firm, received regulatory permission to sell its EyeArt software in Europe for detection of diabetic retinopathy. The five-year-old company is awaiting approval for sales in the U.S. It’s already standard practice for eye doctors to take a high-resolution image of the retina, the back lining of the eyeball that detects light. However, ophthalmologists typically review the images individually to find signs of degeneration. EyeArt automates the process and scans thousands of images in a few hours. Kaushal Solanki, Eyenuk’s chief executive, said volume is important because with the growing prevalence of diabetes, there are far more patients than ophthalmologists. “We are pursuing a partnership with the National Health Service in the U.K., which has one of the largest diabetic screening programs with 2.7 million patients,” he said. “We hope they will develop into a large customer and then we will move on to other large countries in Europe.” Solanki hopes to partner with a European distributor for his product, but he’s also looking to attract venture capital. So far, the company has sustained itself with $3.5 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health. Two other companies, IDX LLC in Iowa City, Iowa and VisionQuest Biomedical in Albuquerque, N.M., are working on similar systems. Solanki noted that neither his company nor the competitors have Food and Drug Administration approval to sell their products in the United States, but he claimed EyeArt has the advantage because it can work with existing diagnostic equipment. Eyenuk is licensing the software fro $15 per patient in Europe, a large discount compared to what an ophthalmologist charges to review images. The company is working on models for its U.S. prices, assuming government approval. Solanki noted that diabetic blindness is 90 percent curable with laser surgery if it’s detected in time. “The insurance companies estimate advanced screening could save them $250 million a year,” he said. “The software is the only realistic way to make this happen.” Measure B Bout Antelope Valley Hospital has filed a claim against the L.A. County Board of Supervisors alleging the county failed to properly allocate billions of tax dollars to trauma centers generated by Measure B. The Lancaster public hospital handles more than 12 percent of the county’s annual ER traffic, but claims it receives less than 1 percent of the funds from Measure B. Approved by voters in 2002, the measure created a special property tax to fund emergency medical services. The claim is required under law before the hospital could pursue litigation, which it may pursue if it cannot negotiate a settlement to its grievance. “We are hopeful that litigation can be avoided,” said hospital Chief Executive Dennis Knox, in a statement. So where does Measure B money go? According to the claim, the county favors its own hospitals and those near county facilities. In fiscal 2013, County USC Hospital in East Los Angeles received $116 million, UCLA Harbor Medical Center got $60 million, but AV Hospital only took home $1.3 million. The claim does not specify an amount that the hospital would consider fair. In response to Business Journal inquiries, the Board of Supervisors Office said in an email that it is negotiating with all trauma hospitals to develop a new system for allocating Measure B funds. “Antelope Valley is only one of many trauma hospitals that seek Measure B funding, so the county must consider all stakeholders,” the email stated. “Meanwhile, Dr. (Mitchell) Katz, the director of the County’s Department of Health Services, has asked to meet directly with Antelope Valley Hospital leaders to hear their concerns.” Lab Notes Kelly Bruno is the new chief executive at the National Health Foundation, an L.A. non-profit that improves care for the underserved through programs for teen mothers and care centers for the homeless. The Valencia resident has worked at the organization for eight years. In her new position, Bruno plans to refine the foundation’s strategic plan and expand relationships with partners. … Antelope Valley Hospital has named Lynn Gomez chief human resources officer. She previously held the same title at San Gorgonio Memorial Veterans Hospital in Banning. She will oversee all staffing, organizational development, succession planning and benefits for the public hospital. Staff Writer Joel Russell can be reached at (818) 316-3124 or jrussell@sfvbj.com.

Joel Russel
Joel Russel
Joel Russell joined the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2006 as a reporter. He transferred to sister publication San Fernando Valley Business Journal in 2012 as managing editor. Since he assumed the position of editor in 2015, the Business Journal has been recognized four times as the best small-circulation tabloid business publication in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. Previously, he worked as senior editor at Hispanic Business magazine and editor of Business Mexico.

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