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New smartphone app promises easy eye testing worldwide


LONDON — The team behind a smartphone-based portable eye examination kit have just launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for new innovation.

Peek comprises a smartphone app and low-cost adaptor that enables professional eye examinations anywhere in the world. Developed by a team of eye care specialists, software developers and product designers, it aims to increase access to high-quality eye care worldwide.

The tools have been developed through a collaboration between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the University of Strathclyde and the NHS Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic Research.

Their latest adaptor, Peek Retina, can be clipped over the camera of a smartphone to allow health workers to see inside an eye and capture high-quality images to be sent to experts for diagnosis. It removes the need for traditional ophthalmoscopes and bulky cameras, enabling examinations in any part of the world. Other conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can be detected.

"Around 39 million people are blind," Peek's creator Dr Andrew Bastawrous confirmed. "80% of this blindness is avoidable, but in many regions people don't have access to eye care," he said.

The Indiegogo campaign allows pledgers to purchase the kit for themselves for £60 ($95) or pay for it to be sent to a healthcare worker on their behalf, via their partners Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.

The estimated delivery date is October 2015. The kit currently only works on a Samsung S3, so they need investment to make it universal. It also doesn't currently have FDA approval so can't be shipped to the U.S.

More substantial donations offer the chance to be a founding supporter, or to join their distribution network.

Peek Retina was borne out of Bastawrous' frustration at having to transport bulky eye equipment to remote areas in Kenya during a community study as part of his PhD at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

He was carrying "around £100,00 of kit", including a slit lamp, a retinal camera and big vision charts among other items. "All required a stable power supply and people to operate them," he said. "I thought there must be another way."

The Peek system can replace all of that, and offers more benefits on top, he insists. For example, a phone's GPS can be used to mark the location of someone the team has examined, so they can follow up with appropriate treatment. Another advantage of the system is that people without healthcare backgrounds can be trained to use the kit.

The team saw a number of patients using both systems, the "gold standard" original kit and the smartphone option, and sent the results to Moorfields Eye Hospital, who decided both systems were comparable.

The team received funding from The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in 2013 and are using that support to conduct a series of trials over the next five years among communities in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, India and the UK.

Dr Giardini, Lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, who also worked on the project said: “Peek Retina is the optimal combination of solid engineering experience, ingenuity and outlook to social impact. The Peek Retina adapter is the most exciting thing my group has ever designed; it is incredibly simple and yet it will change the way we look at eyes."