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Novartis acquires gaming tech for ‘lazy eye’

Novartis is collaborating with video game developers and academics to develop digital technology to treat amblyopia following its completed acquisition of US-based software startup, Amblyotech.

Amblyopia is estimated to affect roughly 3% of the global population. Current treatment options include patching and atropine, however they are associated with low compliance and success rates.

Designed to enhance compliance, Amblyotech utilises active gaming and passive video technology with 3D glasses, training the eyes to work together to view an image in full.

Amblyotech’s software employs a unique visual presentation, called dichoptic display, where each eye is presented with different images using a proprietary algorithm.

In early clinical studies, Amblyotech’s software demonstrated improvements in vision in both children and adults with faster onset compared to standard of care treatments.

Novartis is seeking regulatory approval for the digital therapy.

“By offering a noninvasive solution that has the potential to be significantly faster than current standards of care such as patching for children and adults impacted by lazy eye, Amblyotech’s software is a great example of how we can reimagine medicine using digital technology,” Novartis Ophthalmology global business franchise head Mr Nikos Tripodis said.

“We look forward to using our deep clinical development expertise in ophthalmology to accelerate this platform toward regulatory approval, and our global commercial footprint to maximise access for patients who need it.”

Novartis will work with Ubisoft and McGill University in Canada to accelerate product development to enable faster uptake for patients with proof of concept studies planned later in 2020, the company stated.

Professor Robert Hess, director of research in the Department of Ophthalmology at McGill University, was presented with the 2013 H Barry Collin Research Medal, bestowed by Optometry Australia, at the Southern Regional Congress in Melbourne in 2014 in recognition of his world-leading research in amblyopia.

He has conducted trials to treat amblyopia in adults and children, comparing a monocular approach—wearing an eye patch over the ‘good’ eye—with a dichoptic approach, while playing video games. The study involving 18 adults with amblyopia, some of whom were patched as children, was published in Current Biology in April 2013.