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Aegis and Northwell Launch AI Company Optain for Detecting Eye Diseases

Aegis and Northwell Launch AI Company Optain for Detecting Eye Diseases

May 15, 2023

Ascertain, a joint venture between Aegis Ventures and Northwell Holdings, has raised $12 million in seed funding to launch Optain, an AI company that utilizes retinal imaging for early disease detection and prevention.

Optain's AI technology analyzes data from a simple retinal camera to screen for and diagnose a range of chronic and acute conditions, from ophthalmological to cardiovascular or neurological, in real-time. Thanks to this technology, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma can be detected far earlier.

Optain marks the first company launch by Ascertain, which is focused on developing healthcare AI companies at scale.

"The health care industry has made a concerted effort in recent years to shift treatment from reactive sick-care to proactive preventive care, but many of the legacy screening and diagnostic technologies used by clinicians today are expensive and inaccessible," said Jeff Dunkel, CEO of Optain. "Optain will accelerate that shift and make preventive care ubiquitous by placing smarter, faster and more efficient diagnostic tools in the hands of clinicians everywhere."

Dunkel said, "The most immediate opportunity for impact is within ophthalmology. Optain's first goal is to expand access to screenings and diagnosis for preventable eye disease, closing critical health equity gaps, particularly in underserved communities where diagnostic and screening tools aren't available.

"Northwell will play an important role as the tip of the spear in diabetic retinopathy screening in optometry and ophthalmology first, followed by additional screening for other major and rare eye disease states. Beyond that, new areas of screening are also in use globally including for cardiovascular disease,” he said.

The aim of the Ascertain team is to speed up the accessibility of Optain's advanced capabilities in the U.S., benefiting both providers and patients. Optain's flagship commercial customer will be Northwell Health, which is the largest healthcare provider and private employer in New York State and one of the top 10 health systems in the U.S. With Optain's AI-enabled technology, Northwell Health can accelerate its mission to make healthcare more equitable and provide high-quality preventive care to more patients.