Startup Licenses Fluidic Lens Design to Automate Eyesight Testing

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
A traditional phoropter.

TUCSON, Ariz. - Using technology invented at the University of Arizona James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences, startup iCrx has set its sights on shortening your trip to the eye doctor. 

The inventors have developed a way to automate the process of measuring a person’s required prescription without the need for verbal input from the patient. The new see-through auto-phoropter produces a prescription for glasses or contact lenses in less than 20 seconds and with much better accuracy than existing methods. The hand-held device is smaller, faster and much less expensive as it does not require a large number of lenses; instead, it uses a series of fluidic lenses that can change their focal length by pumping fluid in and out of a chamber.

The inventing team includes UA professor of optical sciences Nasser Peyghambarian, professor at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix and inventor of Lasik surgery Dr. Gholam Peyman, optics professor Jim Schwiegerling, and graduate assistant Nickolaos Savidis.

The new compact, automated phoropter iCrx will bring to market has a number of advantages over the current state-of-the-art. According to the inventors, it eases the process of examining more challenging populations like children and aging adults who might not be able to provide the accurate feedback needed when using conventional phoropters. It is also suited for kiosk operations at drug stores and doctors’ offices. The technology is well-suited also for use in developing countries because of its low cost and ease of use; a doctor is not required to operate the instrument.

Current methods use bulky, expensive equipment, and testing takes ten to twenty minutes.   

“This is a new technology that may revolutionize eye care for millions of people,” said Peyghambarian.

Amy Phillips, recently-retired licensing manager for the College of Optical Science at TLA, is proud to see the long-running project resulting in a startup to bring the invention to the public. 

“I’m proud of how hard the team worked on this,” she said. “We worked together to bring this invention out of the lab and search for licensees and other champions to move the work forward. We also applied Asset Development funds from TLA to prove the concept of the compact binocular design.”  

Through its Asset Development program, TLA provides funding to prepare early-stage inventions for commercialization through activities like prototyping, exploring scalability and confirming functionality. In the case of this technology, the team used AD funds to manufacture the membrane and optical fluids for the fluidic lenses, develop the automated system software and fabricate of the holographic optical elements to create an adaptive see-through prototype.

The startup has already received funding from Tucson’s UAVenture Capital to develop the technology and move it along the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process.

Check out this video interview with Jim Schwiegerling describing this technology, published in February 2019.

- written by Alison Mairena, Technology Marketing Associate
Paul Tumarkin
Sr. Manager, Marketing and Communications