Smart contact lens developer raises seed funding

What comes to mind when you think about digital health technology? Smartphone apps, fitness trackers and other wearable sensors?

How about smart contact lenses?

Medella Health, a Canadian start-up, is developing contact lenses that can monitor glucose levels. The company announced last week that it has raised C$1.4m (£744,000) in funding from investors including 1517 Fund, Fifty Years Fund, Garage Capital and BDC Capital.

After refining the technology, the company hopes to bring to market an innovative contact lens that supports a preventative model of care by continuously monitoring glucose levels and transmitting the information to a mobile device, allowing patients to manage their diet, exercise and habits.

The smart contact lens avoids the need for diabetes patients to monitor their glucose levels by pricking their fingers, taking a drop of blood and putting it on a glucometer to be analysed.

According to Velocity, a startup incubator at the University of Waterloo, the technology works by integrating a small sensor, chip and micro-antenna into the structure of the contact lens.

“Unlike other lenses in development, Medella Health’s proprietary sensor lasts up to a month. This extended lifespan makes calibration simple and also significantly reduces the cost of continuous glucose monitoring,” Velocity claimed.

The startup was founded in early 2013 with a three-person team and has grown to a team of 15, including experts in nanotechnology, health IT, micro-electronics and micro-fabrication.

Dr Lyndon Jones, director of the Centre for Contact Lens Research, said: “I’ve seen the Medella Health team grow since their early days in the labs — not only do they have the rigor and resilience to solve the hard problems facing this industry, but they weave together the balance between visionary purpose and practical implementation.”

Medella Health plans to use the seed funding to scale its technology and to partner with micro-fabrication companies, contact lens manufacturers and healthcare providers for future manufacturing and marketing of the product.

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