Abell Foundation invests in eye scanner firm

The Baltimore Sun
Vasoptic Medical focuses on diabetes with eye scanner and Abell investment.

The Abell Foundation announced Tuesday that it has invested $250,000 in Vasoptic Medical Inc., a Baltimore-based firm that's developing a portable retinal imager to make it easier to monitor diabetes and diseases of the eye.

Vasoptic moved into Baltimore from Columbia in August after a $250,000 investment last year from Abell, which makes targeted venture-capital investments in firms to foster technology and research in the city. The foundation's ultimate goal is to create jobs in Baltimore.

"Expanding our investment in Vasoptic Medical Inc. is a win-win for Baltimore," the Abell Foundation board said in a statement. "Vasoptic is growing Baltimore's innovative tech industry and is poised to improve access to affordable healthcare for low-income populations."

Located in Locust Point, Vasoptic is developing the low-cost imager to scan the eyes and provide quantitative analysis of the progression of both eye diseases and systemic diseases such as diabetes. The scanner eliminates the need for dilating pupils and allows exams to be performed in primary care rather than in specialty settings, which could increase access to low-cost care or at-risk underserved individuals, according to Vasoptic's website.

"Primary care physicians can improve detection and early intervention of diabetic retinopathy by using Vasoptic's low-cost, portable device," the Abell statement said. "Low-income populations have a disproportionate number of diabetics as compared to the overall population."

Vision loss is one side effect of diabetes, and while doctors recommend diabetics receive an annual eye exam, only about half do, according to the International Diabetes Foundation. Nearly one in 10 Americans has diabetes, while many more are at risk.

Vasoptic, which is working with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland on its device, was a semifinalist in last fall's InvestMaryland challenge, a Maryland Department of Commerce competition for startup companies.

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