ARPA-H announces award for compact, affordable eye imaging device


ARPA-H announces award to improve eye disease diagnostics with development of compact, affordable imaging device  

Improved imaging technology could allow for early diagnosis and intervention to prevent severe visual impairments 

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) today announced the Enabling Technologies for Photonic Chips-based Optical Coherence Tomography (PIC-OCT) project, which aims to develop a faster and more affordable eye scanning device. Instruments based on optical coherence tomography (OCT) are currently used by ophthalmologists to diagnose problems like glaucoma and macular degeneration, but it remains expensive and susceptible to inaccurate results if a person cannot hold their eyes still during the scan. With PIC-OCT, ARPA-H aims to revolutionize current OCTs. 

“A focus at ARPA-H is to produce technologies that are affordable and widely accessible,” said Program Manager Ileana Hancu, Ph.D. “This project could get a crucial diagnostic tool into the hands of more providers in the U.S. and around the world and identify eye disease early when interventions are most likely to be successful at preserving a person’s vision.”  

A team led by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis intends to shrink existing diagnostic devices based on OCT by miniaturizing the optical components and developing software and high-speed tunable lasers. A quicker scan rate means people of any age won’t have to sit still as long for the diagnostic test, and a less expensive device could be placed at an easily accessible pharmacy or wellness clinic. Solicited through ARPA-H’s Open Broad Agency Announcement (Open BAA), the project has a budget of up to $20 million over five years to achieve its goal of a shoebox-sized device with a fraction of the cost of a current OCT imaging device. 

The ARPA-H Open BAA seeks transformative ideas for health research or technology breakthroughs. Continued support of each award is contingent on projects meeting aggressive milestones. To learn more about projects as they are awarded, visit the Open BAA page