Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Eye-scanner developed in Rosyth may prevent diabetic blindness

The handheld device is built by Rosyth-based company Epipole Image copyright Epipole
Image caption The hand-held device is the first portable and affordable camera capable of diagnosing diabetic retinopathy

A portable eye-scanning camera that could prevent blindness in millions of diabetes sufferers is being developed in Fife.

The hand-held device, built by Rosyth-based company Epipole, is the first portable and affordable camera capable of diagnosing diabetic retinopathy.

Retinopathy is a condition responsible for two million cases of preventable blindness worldwide.

A £400,000 deal has been signed to turn a prototype into a commercial reality.

As well as being a landmark for Epipole, it is also the first major deal for newly launched Scottish angel syndicate, Lancaster Capital.

Tell-tale signs

Dr Craig Robertson, the managing director and founder of Epipole, believes it will revolutionise detection of the condition, particularly in India and other developing nations.

He added: "In the UK we are lucky as we have gold standard healthcare, but in less developed countries this is a huge issue as it is one of the nastiest parts of the diabetes condition and leads to blindness that could easily be prevented through early-intervention.

"We are now on target to go from an idea to reality in three years, which is exceptionally fast and wouldn't have happened without the investment from Lancaster capital.

"It was a brave step by them to get involved and I'm extremely thankful they quickly saw the potential in this camera and were prepared to put in the investment which will allow us to move to the next level."

Remote communities

Dr Robertson has now patented the camera and software, which is likely to cost under £1,000.

It will also connect to laptops via USB, allowing doctors to beam results from remote and rural communities to anywhere in the world.

The founder members of Lancaster Capital privately invested the original £55,000 Dr Robertson needed to set up Epipole to make his prototype.

Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the retina caused by the complications of diabetes, which can lead to blindness when abnormal blood vessels form and then burst at the back of the eye.

The Epipole product is a high resolution camera that spots tell-tale signs such as blood clots at the back of the eye.

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