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Aussie-developed dry eye device to hit market within five years

An Australian optometrist is spearheading efforts to develop the world’s first point-of-care test that can both diagnose and subtype dry eye disease.

Dr Laura Downie, from the University of Melbourne, is leading the development of the ADMiER (Acoustically-Driven Microfluidic Extensional Rheometry) device, which works by analysing the stretching properties of a patient’s small tear droplet to objectively diagnose and then differentiate between the aqueous-deficient or evaporative disease subtypes.

As the first application of microfluidic extensional rheometry for ophthalmic diagnostics, it is claimed to be “a transformative advance” over current clinical tests, many of which are invasive, time-consuming and inaccurate. There is currently no single method that has the dual capability of ADMiER.

To date, Downie and fellow researchers Professor Leslie Yeo and Dr Amarin McDonnell from RMIT University have built a research-grade prototype of the device and secured a strong portfolio of intellectual patents. They have also published an initial clinical dataset demonstrating proof-of-concept for the device’s diagnostic utility in the leading journal Ophthalmology.

They hope to bring the device to market within the next four to five years.

“The intended users of this technology are optometrists and ophthalmologists, of which there are approximately 6,000 in Australia, and 10-fold larger markets in each of the US and Europe,” Downie said.

“Translation of the device into eyecare practice will benefit eyecare clinicians and the healthcare system by improving practice efficiency through faster, more accurate and cost-effective patient triaging, in one of the most common daily tasks of diagnosis – dry eye.

“For dry eye patients, the diagnostic and subtyping information provided by the technology will directly inform dry eye treatment paradigms, so that the right treatment is delivered to the right patient. In the long-term, this will drive improvements in health outcomes, with related flow-on benefits, such as improved quality of life and enhanced workplace productivity.”

Downie has presented the technology at several scientific meetings this year, including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and the International Ocular Surface Society meeting, both in Vancouver, as well as the Accelerating Australia Life Sciences Innovation Showcase and World Congress of Inflammation, both in Sydney.

“This next stage of development focuses on undertaking a body of research relating to clinical validation of the device, and developing and optimising a next-generation prototype,” Downie said.

The team were also recently awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council Development grant to support the project.