The department of biotechnology (DBT) has provided a Rs.4-crore grant to Forus Health, an ophthalmology medical startup, to develop Neo, a device used to test retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) among new born infants.
The grant is disbursed under the Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme (BIPP) on a cost-sharing basis for a three- year period for which the device is now under validation.
For the research and product development, Forus has teamed up with two partners: Narayana Nethralaya which was the clinical partner and responsible for requirements validation and clinical trials, and IIT Chennai for algorithm development. The onus of developing the device and installing it at medical centres for large scale deployment across one state was on Forus.
Now, Narayana Nethralaya is solely responsible for all clinical inputs from validation and joint research programmes. India accounts for over 3.5 million premature born infants annually. ROP, a leading cause of infant blindness globally, is reported to impact one in three babies in India born less than 2,000 grams. About 10 per cent of them turn blind within two months of birth if not detected and treated on time.
In 2013, Forus researched and developed ‘3nethra’, an intelligent pre-screening ophthalmology device that detects five eye ailments: cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retina and cornea problems.
The company is now working out a strategy to improve the country’s visual health with the department of science and technology (DST) and the DBT to maximise the use of this technology to prevent blindness.
Forus had a fund infusion of $5 million from IDG Ventures and Accel Partners. It went on to expand its R&D and also launch 3nethra Royal version which generates automatic pre-screen report using auto-refractometry. It has also embarked on a sales and distribution network expansion in India and abroad.