[FoRK] A new KP investment in eyeglasses (!?)

Jim Whitehead ejw at soe.ucsc.edu
Fri Mar 25 12:21:22 PST 2005


I believe the underlying technical advance here is the application of
adaptive optics to eye measurement. Using adaptive optics based instruments,
it's apparently possible to provide a detailed map of the cones and rods at
the back of your eye, as well as a map of the eye's surface.

There is also the possibility of deskilling the prescription of glasses,
relegating optometrists to  medical diagnosis. A human has no chance of
doing as well as the machine.

Interesting question will be whether the machine-generated prescription will
feel "comfortable". I also wonder whether this will increase the dependence
on the frame maintaining a fixed position on the face (something that's hard
to do when you have young glasses-grabbing kids:-)

- Jim

> -----Original Message-----
> From: fork-bounces at xent.com [mailto:fork-bounces at xent.com] On 
> Behalf Of Rohit Khare
> Sent: Friday, March 25, 2005 11:18 AM
> To: Adam Rifkin; FoRK Mailing List
> Cc: M Khare
> Subject: [FoRK] A new KP investment in eyeglasses (!?)
> 
> http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20050325-9999-1b25
> lens.html
> A fusion of technologies results in ultrafine diagnosis and 
> correction By Penni Crabtree UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER March 25, 2005
> 
> On the production line at San Diego startup Ophthonix, lenses 
> await further steps in the manufacturing process.
> 
> These are not your grandma's spectacles.
> 
>   Fusing laser technology developed as part of the Star Wars 
> weapons program with optics, physics, biology and some 
> elegant engineering, the San Diego startup company Ophthonix 
> has hit on a new vision for, well, vision.
> 
>   The privately held eye-care company has created a device 
> called the Z-View Aberrometer, a laser-based diagnostic 
> machine that allows eye doctors to map the unique foibles of 
> the individual human eye.
> 
>   Traditional vision testing machines allow eye doctors to 
> write prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses that 
> correct common problems such as farsightedness and 
> nearsightedness. But Ophthonix's device also measures other 
> conditions – known as high order aberrations – within the eye 
> that affect the clarity and crispness of a person's vision.
> 
>   "You aren't asked during an eye exam, 'Is that line 
> perfectly clear?' 
> you are asked, 'Can you read it?' " said Andreas Dreher, 
> chief executive of Ophthonix. "Some people can read the 20/20 
> line, but it's not crisp. They see blurriness. Or, while 
> driving at night, every light looks like a star or a comet's tail.
> 
> "Those are the fine distortions, the optical aberrations, 
> that our machine detects and we can correct," Dreher said.
> 
>   The technology is similar to that used in a new generation 
> of LASIK treatments, the laser surgery that is performed to 
> correct vision problems. But unlike machines that map the eye 
> so a surgeon knows where to direct the laser, Ophthonix's 
> device is the first to be used as a prescribing tool for 
> corrective lenses.
> 
>   Ophthonix began selling its machine to eye doctors in 
> November, but the diagnostic technology is only the first 
> step in the process and in the company's potential revenue stream.
> 
>   Once an eye doctor uses the Aberrometer to map a patient's 
> eyes – capturing more than 11,000 tiny measurement points 
> across each pupil – the device's software generates a digital 
> prescription.
> 
>   The doctor then sends that prescription to Ophthonix, which 
> feeds it into its proprietary lens production equipment to 
> create a custom pair of spectacles.
> 
>   Unlike traditional lenses, which are made from ground or 
> molded glass or plastic, Ophthonix lenses are made from two 
> pieces of thin plastic that are fused with a proprietary 
> liquid plastic between them.
> 
>   The liquid plastic trapped within this lens sandwich is 
> then "programmed" through a point-by-point computerized 
> system to correspond with the patient's prescription.
> 
>   Once programmed, the liquid plastic is cured and hardened, 
> and the finished pair of Ophthonix's branded iZon eyeglasses 
> is mailed to the doctor to be delivered to the patient. The 
> company produces about 60 pairs of custom-made eyeglasses 
> each day, and is scaling up to manufacture more.
> 
>   Dreher said patients can expect to pay a premium over 
> conventional lenses for the iZon eyeglasses, but the prices 
> are set by individual eye doctors and can differ from doctor 
> to doctor.
> 
>   The list price for an Aberrometer is $27,900.
> 
>   Phil Smith, a Hillcrest optometrist, said he bought an 
> Aberrometer in January because the technology is "cutting-edge."
> 
>   "I have a number of patients that complain that their night 
> vision is not good with glasses, or it's not crisp, and we 
> just can't put our finger on it," Smith said. "But we're 
> starting to learn that a lot of these complaints are due to 
> higher order aberrations that can't be corrected with 
> ordinary glasses or contacts.
> 
>   "I think Ophthonix's technology has the potential to solve 
> patient problems, to have a significant impact," Smith said. 
> "That's my hope, and I want to be there when it happens."
> 
>   Dreher, who founded Ophthonix, obtained the company's 
> technology from Trex Enterprises Corp., a San Diego research 
> and development company focused on applied optics and lasers.
> 
>   In 2000, Dreher, a founder and former president of Rancho 
> Bernardo-based Laser Diagnostic Technologies, left his job 
> and was looking for a new technology to build a company 
> around. He was introduced to Trex, which ran a project on 
> guiding laser beams through the atmosphere for the federal 
> government's Star Wars program.
> 
>   Dreher saw some of that technology and thought it could be 
> applied to vision care.
> 
>   "When a laser beam is projected through the atmosphere, 
> there is a lot of air that changes in its optical density and 
> properties, and therefore the light beam is deviating," 
> Dreher said. "So you want to be able to detect how a beam is 
> disturbed and then correct it.
> 
>   "And it is the same problem an eye doctor faces. The eye is 
> an optical system that has disturbances, and you want to 
> diagnose them and correct them."
> 
>   Dreher pitched the idea to Trex, which transferred 
> commercial rights to the technology to Ophthonix in exchange 
> for an equity stake in the new company.
> 
>   In 2002, Ophthonix raised an initial $7.5 million in 
> venture capital funds from San Diego's Enterprise Partners 
> and Menlo Park-based Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a 
> premier venture capital firm that has financed high-tech and 
> biotech powerhouses such as Sun Microsystems, Compaq Computer 
> and Genentech.
> 
>   Dreher is proud that the company not only attracted VCs 
> with impressive pedigrees, but did so after the high-tech and 
> biotech stock market bubble had burst.
> 
>   "We started at a time where virtually no funding was 
> available, when hardly any venture capitalist would talk to 
> you if you came with a new idea," Dreher said.
> 
>   Dr. Drew Senyei, managing director of Enterprise Partners, 
> said his firm decided to back Ophthonix because the 
> technology represents "the first innovation in eyeglasses in decades."
> 
>   "It is a very unique concept," Senyei said. "The difference 
> between traditional glasses and the iZon glasses is like the 
> difference between regular television and high-definition television."
> 
>   Ophthonix, which employs 52, is slowly introducing the 
> Aberrometer to the market – 25 units have been sold in San 
> Diego – and will begin to offer the device nationwide this summer.
> 
>   In September, Ophthonix formed an alliance with San 
> Jose-based Optical Connection, which will manufacture iZon 
> disposable contact lenses.
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