Spinoff to commercialise smart contact lens that mimics human iris

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Researchers in Belgium have developed an artificial iris embedded in a smart contact lens that will spin off into a startup.

The team at Imec and CMST, an imec-affiliated research group at Ghent University, developed tunable iris aperture using concentric rings on an integrated liquid crystal display (LCD). The technology will spin out into a startup called Azalea Vision.

The smart contact lens is designed to operate for an entire day using an ultra-low power design to compensate for iris problems such as aniridia, keratoconus and light sensitivity or photophobia which affects over 20m people around the world.

Together with researchers at the Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Fundación Jiménez Díaz in Madrid, Spain and the Holst Centre in the Netherlands, the team worked to improve the visual sharpness, decrease optical aberrations and reduce the amount of light entering the eye in a dynamic manner.

The smart contact lens is described in Scientific Reports from Nature.

The artificial iris lens is capable of dynamically changing the pupil size, bringing back two levels of functionality of the eye, being light adaptation and expanded depth-of-focus. The Azalea Vision team will focus on validating the device with patients and volunteers under clinical investigations in order to provide a functional, robust and safe device for diverse eye disorders with light sensitivity and lack of visual sharpness.

“By combining our expertise on miniaturized flexible electronics, low-power ASIC design and hybrid integration, we have demonstrated the capacity to develop a solution for people who suffer from iris deficiencies, higher order aberrations and photophobia, a common yet debilitating symptom seen in many neuro-ophthalmic disorders,” said Andrés Vásquez Quintero at imec/UGent.

“Our smart contact lens can control the level of incoming light mimicking a human iris and offering a potential solution to vision correction – by expanding depth-of-field with automatic control of pupil size. This way, our approach can surpass current solutions to combat human eye iris deficiencies. Its beneficial optical effects will be further clinically validated and developed into a medical device,” he said.

“It is imec’s aim to create added value for the society and bring our research to the market”, said Luc Van den hove, president and CEO of imec. “We are convinced that this artificial iris prototype has all the potential to become a game changer in ophthalmic treatment. Therefore, we have launched an incubation project together with imec.xpand to fully support the team’s ambition to mature and validate the technology and support their efforts to commercialize via a strong business case as a

“The Azalea Vision initiative adds to our longstanding track record of creating spin-off’s in the photonics and microsystems area”, said Rik Van de Walle, rector of Ghent University. “Many of these new companies target important medical problems and several more startup initiatives are in preparation.”

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