Smart contact lens startup raises €8m to tackle chronic migraines

August 25, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Smart contact lens startup raises €8m to tackle chronic migraines
Azelea Vision in Belgium has raised €8m in its Series A round to develop a smart contact lens for light sensitivity and ocular disorders

Azalea Vision, a joint spin-out of Belgian research lab imec and Ghent University, has raised €8m to commercialise a smart contact lens technology to tackle medical conditions such as chronic migraines.

The Series A funding round comprised of € 6.2m in equity and a €1.8m grant from Flanders Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO). Lead investor Imec.xpand is joined by Elaia, Sensinnovat, and Shigeru in a strong international investor syndicate.

The technology is different from the smart contact lens developments integrating a display and wireless link. Instead, the Azelea approach integrates an active light management system inside the contact lens. This is able to adjust the brightness of incoming light automatically and dynamically, specifically tailored to each patient’s needs, while also performing the functions of a traditional contact lens.

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This could significantly improve the quality of life of millions of patients suffering from neuro-ophthalmic conditions with light sensitivity as a co-morbidity such as chronic migraines as well as those suffering eye problems such as aniridia, coloboma and ocular albinism.

“Our smart contact lens filters incoming light in real-time by using a thin liquid crystal cell combined with a custom-made microchip. It’s a solution that, for the first time, will be able to improve both visual acuity and light sensitivity in patients by dynamically adjusting light levels in a personalized, non-invasive, and user-friendly manner,” said Prof Andrés Vásquez Quintero, CTO and founder of Azalea Vision. “This technology is based on years of academic research at imec and Ghent University, supported through public funding. We are very pleased to now be taking the next step towards bringing this product to the patients.”

The start-up was founded by Quintero with Enrique Vega as CEO and Peter Vermeulen as a Non-Executive Board Advisor. Azalea is now building the team that will bring the company through product development, manufacturing and clinical trials.

“More than 25 million people worldwide suffer from high light sensitivity and ocular disorders. In Europe, USA and Japan alone, the business opportunity associated to the patients that could benefit from Azalea Vision’s solution is greater than 4 billion euro per year,” said Vega.

Frank Bulens, partner at imec.xpand: “We are thrilled to have this amazing team in place as pioneers in the development of smart solutions to address an unmet clinical need  for people with ocular disorders or light sensitivity triggered by chronic migraines. The Azalea Vision platform also offers an opportunity to tackle other medical applications as well as specific consumer solutions.”

“We have been convinced by the breakthrough innovation of Azalea Vision’s smart contact lens, organized as a platform with embedded battery and antenna, allowing for the management of visual performance and light conditions. The potential market is very large, and Azalea Vision will also target diagnostics. The team is very skilled and has developed the product over the course of more than 5 years of incubation, including clinical work with renowned doctors. These efforts will render the go-to-market easier. This deep tech company is exactly the kind of project that Elaia PSL Innovation Fund is thrilled to support,” said Anne-Sophie Carrese, partner at Elaia.;

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