From M+Visión to Reality: PlenOptika

PlenOptika’s QuickSee uses innovative wavefront aberrometry technology to make vision measurements in 10 seconds.

The QuickSee handheld autorefractor in use in rural Kenya

What is the sum of MIT, Comunidad de Madrid, and an unmet need for better global vision care? One answer is PlenOptika, a startup medical device company that emerged from the Madrid-MIT M+Visión Consortium. The M+Visión program was a 5-year collaborative program in which Fellows from around the world pinpointed important medical needs and formed international teams to find solutions. PlenOptika was launched by members of the first cohort of Fellows, who began in 2011—Nicholas Durr, PhD, Daryl Lim, PhD, Shivang R. Dave, PhD, and Eduardo Lage, PhD.

Those Fellows lived in Madrid for about two and a half months to shadow doctors while they took in their surroundings, to find unmet medical as well as barriers to that need. The M+Visión program encouraged them to meet with disease and technology experts in Spain, Boston, and anywhere else globally they could be found. They were given the resources and mentors to develop their project, full time, for 3 years.

Did you know that “uncorrected refractive errors” is in the top 10 for Global Burden of Disease list? Being unable to see can be debilitating to many across the world. Corrective glasses, an easy solution to refractive errors, have been around for over 700 years, so why is this still a global problem? The team realized that the barrier to correcting vision laid in expensive, bulky, and hard to use measurement equipment called autorefractors. There are very few skilled and appropriately equipped optometrists in third world countries resulting in even fewer patients being able to receive proper eye care prescriptions.

Beginning in the summer of 2011, Team Eye (as they were known before founding PlenOptika) focused on the unmet need of uncorrected refractive errors. Shivang’s background in entrepreneurship, global health and bioengineering, Eduardo offered his expertise in electrical and medical device engineering, while Nicholas and Daryl brought their optics expertise to the table. Their answer to this unmet need was to design a medical device that could assist optometrists to write the proper prescription, faster and without limitation by traditional autorefractors. While in the M+Visión Fellowship, the team built prototypes of a device that could assist in giving fast and accurate vision measurements. These early models were followed by the creation of their first handheld, binocular shaped prototype, which they dubbed the QuickSee. Using this prototype, the team worked with the New England College of Optometry for a clinical study.

After completing their fellowships in 2014, Shivang, Eduardo, Nicholas, and Daryl launched PlenOptika to help get people the glasses they need by commercializing the QuickSee. The portable device was created with ease of use in mind, in hopes of enabling more technicians to reach currently underserved communities, and to make the eye exam process faster for eye care professionals/organizations. Over the years, PlenOptika was mentored by the MIT Venture Mentoring Service, were incubated in the Harvard Innovation Launch Lab for four years, and recently moved to the Boston University Photonics Incubator Center (returning to Daryl’s PhD Alma Mater). During the commercialization process, the team had to conduct iterative end user-based design, clinical studies in 5 countries, obtain regulatory clearance, develop partnerships, and scale-up production.

PlenOptika’s QuickSee is the world’s most accurate handheld autorefractor.

Today, QuickSee has entered the market with commercial and NGO optometrists and ophthalmologists in both the US and India. In the next five years PlenOptika hopes to expand the sales and distribution of its medical device to all corners of the earth. The company has a base model available for low income countries in hopes to help remove uncorrected refractive errors from the Global Burden of Disease list in the future.

You can find these impressive and friendly scientists, Shivang R. Dave, Nicholas Durr, Daryl Lim, and Eduardo Lage, frequenting many of the MIT linQ community events. When you see them be sure to ask about PlenOptika!