Over the past 30 years, the proportion of people with visual impairment and blindness has reduced worldwide. However, it is estimated that the growth of the population will triple the number of people with vision impairment. By 2050, there could be 115 million blind people, already 38,5 million in 2020.
The aging of the population, the rising incidence and prevalence of allergies, more exposure to digital screens, pollution, lifestyle diseases and side effects of common medication are leading to more diagnosed cases of dry eye, eyes allergies and aged-related macular degeneration, too.
Hopefully, new technological advances in molecular and cellular biology, stem cells, artificial intelligence, bio-compatible materials, optics or electronics could lead to a better understanding, diagnostic and treatment of eye-related diseases.
To address these questions, Innovaud organized a Connect conference on 24 September 2019 at the Fondation Asile des aveugles - Hôpital Ophtalmique Jules-Gonin in Lausanne. A unique opportunity for local actors in the field of eye health to meet, network and build relations.
The 25 participants could hear 3 presentations. The event was opened by Prof. Thomas J. Wolfensberger, medical director and head of the ophthalmology service at the Hôpital Jules Gonin. He presented the latest achievements in the development of an intraocular lens allowing to broaden the visual angle by 2-fold compared to existing implants. Such an improvement could allow blind people to better apprehend their environment. This research was carried out in collaboration with the EPFL and was published in the prestigious journal Nature Com.
Then, Marta Gehring, innovation & business development strategist and industry expert, gave some business insights about ophthalmology. She pointed out the important growth of the market, driven by both prescribed and “over-the-counter” drugs. Also, she gave hints on the leading key opinion leaders (KOL) centers in ophthalmology.
Finally, Dr. Adan Villamarin, COO at Rheon Medical, a spinoff from the EPFL, closed this Innovaud Connect by presenting EyeWatch, the world's first adjustable drainage device for the treatment of glaucoma. The results on patients are very encouraging as they allow to stabilize the intraocular pressure over a prolonged period of time.
A prominent ecosystem for eye health
Vaud and its surroundings form a prominent region for the development of innovation in eye health. It combines top notch research institutes (for ex. EPFL, Hôpital Ophtalmique Jules-Gonin, Institut de Recherche en Ophtalmologie - IRO, Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique - CSEM) as well as deep tech companies active in pharma and biotech (Xigen, Gene signal, Inflamalps, Azad Pharma, Santen Pharma, Oculis, TRB Chemedica or AB2Bio).
Internationally renowned medical devices were developed locally, too, such as the ones of Sensimed, Rheon Medical, SwissLens, Second sight, Tissot Medical Research, Kejako, SAV-IOL, Ceramaret, Aptissen, SyrHA or Fabrinal, as well as novel diagnostics and enabling technologies (RetinAI, DeepCube, SUNBioscience, Earlysight, Creal3D, Eyeware.tech or Liris Tech).