When Brennan Eadie, an ophthalmologist from Vancouver, moved to Nova Scotia from the other side of the country, he wasn’t expecting to stay.
Eadie travelled out east for a one-year fellowship program to study glaucoma. But when he learned that Halifax is home to some of the world’s most highly regarded research in glaucoma, an eye disease that causes permanent blindness, his plans changed. He started a company that aims to improve how glaucoma vision tests are conducted.
His company, Eadie Technologies, is creating a wearable headset that will improve the standard testing glaucoma patients undergo to manage their disease. Eadie and his team are building a modified virtual reality headset that can produce the same results faster and with greater accuracy than what is now available, he said.
“I see a lot of patients who really dislike the tests I do,” said Eadie during an interview, describing the current system. “They find it uncomfortable and tend to feel that they don’t do well. And it’s an expensive test to run in our office.”
The tests, called visual field tests, are currently conducted via a large, clunky desktop device. Patients place their head in a chinrest, wear an eye patch over one eye and must maintain focus on one focal point, as lights flash in their periphery.
In his office, Eadie conducts around 10 to 12 tests a day on one machine with one technician. Each test takes around 30 minutes to complete.
According to guidelines from the Canadian Glaucoma Society, ophthalmologists should be conducting visual field tests once every four months in extreme cases of glaucoma and once every six months for moderate cases.
Eadie’s device will reduce the time it takes to conduct a visual field test and it will allow doctors and technicians to conduct tests remotely.
“It has all the technical components that will allow . . . a visual field test that’s not inferior to the gold standard,” he said.
Eadie has been building the prototype of the device for a little over a year. He hopes to have it ready for clinical testing in the spring.
The company, which is currently being incubated at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax, has raised over $500,000 in funding from provincial and federal government funding bodies, as well as from private investors. Most recently, the company won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation Challenge, which took place last summer.
“And we’re probably looking at raising another 1 or 2 million in the next year,” said Eadie.
Eadie has three full-time employees and has garnered a lot of support from researchers and experts in glaucoma research through Dalhousie University’s Glaucoma Research Group. This group includes Balwantray Chauhan, the president of the International Glaucoma Research society.
“So, we have one of the biggest names in glaucoma research right here in Halifax, across the street from us,” Eadie said.
Eadie is working with engineers contracted from Enginuity in Halifax. His father Frank Eadie is also part of the company, focusing on the legal and business development side of the venture.
The company is trying to address a big problem. Eadie said glaucoma affects 3 to 4 percent of the world’s population. He said that by 2020 there will be 10 million people who experience some level of blindness due to glaucoma.
“The idea is to catch all these people with glaucoma early and treat them before their disease can progress.”