Artificial Intelligence

Toku Envisions Retail-Based Retinal CVD and Diabetes Screening

Cardiovascular disease and diabetes screening might be headed to your neighborhood eyeglasses retailer, at least if retinal AI startup Toku Eyes and its heavyweight optical industry backers prove correct.

Toku Eyes just secured a $8M Series A round that it will use to accelerate the development of its unique AI-based retinal image analysis solution, which identifies patients with retinal biomarkers associated with higher risks of CV events, stroke, and diabetes during routine eye exams.

The funding round was co-led by two companies who are very capable of incorporating Toku Eyes into millions of routine vision exams:

  • National Vision – The second largest U.S. optical retailer (>1,300 stores), which emphasized its plans to bring Toku’s AI screening to its patients, and to “bridge the gap” between eye care and primary care providers. 
  • Topcon Healthcare – A leading eye care hardware and software company, which will provide Toku with data science support, and make Toku its first ever Entrepreneur in Residence.

Toku Eyes’ AI-based solution analyzes images from retinal cameras to detect changes in blood vessels and pigmentation, allowing early detection of CVD, diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy in people who might not be flagged through traditional medical care visits.

That proactive screening workflow might seem like a longshot to some CW readers or seem like a concerning source of incidental findings to others, but we’ve already witnessed enough retinal AI startups and studies to show that others see potential in this approach.

  • Toku Eyes’ focus on existing eye care settings, technologies, technicians, and patient groups could also help it to avoid the access and economic challenges that have hindered other attempts at proactive CVD screening.

The Takeaway

Healthcare is littered with the bones of innovative disease screening approaches that haven’t found meaningful adoption, including many that were far more closely connected to the specialists dedicated to diagnosing and treating those same diseases. 

However, the continued challenges with early detection of CVD and diabetes suggests that we still need creative approaches to screening, and that could mean detecting some at-risk patients via their routine eye exams.

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