NUS HOPES Glaucoma

NUS students get S$53K for eye tech

Yu Kelu’s father, 26, was diagnosed with glaucoma in late 2019.

His father – 55 – suffers from constant eye pain and headaches as he has to see a doctor for eye pressure tests and the pain usually lasts for days.

The pandemic is also making it difficult for frequent hospital visits, exposing yourself to viruses, in addition to the uncomfortable treatment process. It made Kelu want to do something.

Kelu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Yu Kelu, student at NUS and her father / Image credit: Yu Kelu

Through the school, she then roped up two other students – David Lee, 26, and Li Si, 28. It was a melting pot of ideas, as they all three have different backgrounds and each drew on their individual expertise to find a solution.

Si is a doctoral candidate at the school’s Institute for Health Innovation & Technology, while David is a research engineer in the school’s materials science and engineering department.

The three young inventors combined their knowledge of materials, electronics and machine learning to create an eye-tracking sensor device to detect glaucoma, in the hope that it could help people with these conditions. to improve their lives.

They decided to call it HOPES, a ring in the name to symbolize a dream to help keep the elderly from going blind.

The concept worked and today (November 17th) they were announced as Singapore’s first international winner for the James Dyson Award, taking the top prize of S $ 53,000 to help them pursue their invention.

These Singapore winners – the first Singaporean team in the award’s 17-year history – defeated over 2,000 global entries to win the top prize, and they were personally selected by Sir James Dyson himself.

What is glaucoma

Glaucoma is a common disease among middle-aged and elderly people, and is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

Last year, around 80 million people around the world were diagnosed with glaucoma.

In Singapore, around three percent of people over the age of 50 suffer from this disease. Almost one in 10 people over the age of 70 have glaucoma.

Because he is largely asymptomatic, he is also known as the “silent thief of sight”. There is no cure, but if diagnosed and treated early, blindness can be prevented.

Image Credit: Rebuild Your Vision

“Many sufferers overlook the consequences of increased eye pressure and may not notice any problems until their vision is lost,” Kelu, David and Si shared in an interview with Vulcan Post.

“Therefore, regular monitoring of eye pressure is necessary for the early prevention and diagnosis of glaucoma. Regular eye pressure checks can help slow or prevent vision loss, especially if the disease is detected early on, ”they said.

Current eye pressure inspection methods require patients to go to the hospital every two to three hours over a 24 hour period to monitor eye pressure fluctuations.

Sometimes hospitalization is necessary, which disrupts the daily lives of patients.

Almost 1 in 10 people over 70 have glaucoma / Image credit: HealthXchange

“Due to the inconvenience caused, many patients do not respect their check-up schedules. Therefore, we saw the need for home intraocular pressure monitoring for the management of glaucoma, ”the team said.

The creation of HOPE

Last year Kelu and Si met with Dr. Victor Koh, an ophthalmic clinician at the National University Hospital (NUH) to better understand the issues of glaucoma treatment and diagnosis.

Kelu and Si set out to design a wearable device that could leverage their knowledge and expertise in electronic skin (e-skin) and sensor technology developed at the Tee Research Group to measure eye pressure. David later joined the team to help with the work.

Over the past 18 months, the team has spent most of their hours designing, imagining and prototyping HOPES. They hoped to fill a gap they had identified in the management of glaucoma – the need for a safe, non-invasive and inexpensive home eye pressure sensor.

HOPES / Image Credit: James Dyson Award, NUS

Such a device can potentially be implemented with a telemedicine platform, reducing hospital visits and the load on health infrastructure, especially during the pandemic.

HOPES will also allow clinicians to use the captured data to tailor treatment plans. The team intends to make HOPES appeal to many users, through a portable and accessible user experience.

After nearly a hundred iterations of the product, HOPES was born – a portable biomedical device for painless and low cost home intraocular pressure (IOP) testing. Powered by patent-pending sensor technology and artificial intelligence (AI), this is a handy device for users – especially people with glaucoma – to self-monitor their IOP.

Earlier this year, student supervisor Dr. Benjamin Tee shared a newsletter about the James Dyson Prize.

The team realized that the work they were doing aligned with the award’s goal: to design an engineering solution to a problem.

Stimulated by the vision alignment and in the hope that their product could make a difference and be recognized as such, the young researchers decided to submit HOPES for the award.

The reaction of the NUS team when Sir James Dyson told them they had won the top prize / Image credit: James Dyson Award

To their delight, they beat 2,000 participants to become the inaugural winner of this international award, validating their research and showing them that it had the potential to solve real-world problems.

How does the device work?

After creating a profile in the product application, the user wears the HOPES glove with the sensor placed on the fingertip, pressing it against the center of the eyelid.

The fingertip uses a unique sensor architecture that captures dynamic pressure information from the user’s eye with sub-millisecond accuracy.

The captured signals are processed by machine learning algorithms to continuously and accurately calculate users’ eye pressure scans.

Data is transmitted via Bluetooth to paired devices or uploaded to the cloud for remote access by clinicians.

A user wears the HOPES glove with the sensor on the eyelid for checks / Image credit: James Dyson Award, NUS

The app prompts users with an easy-to-read measurement history and direct links to healthcare systems, allowing them to seek medical help to minimize future symptoms.

Beyond the simple and easy to use application, HOPES contains AI technology.

The team explained why AI is needed for the product: “By discussing the problem of treating glaucoma with clinicians and conducting our own trials, we noticed that measuring eye pressure becomes more difficult when the patient has suffered eye injuries in the past, such as scarring or lesions.

Image Credit: James Dyson Award, NUS

“This, in addition to the differences in patient eyelid textures, added additional complexities to our approach to measuring patient eye pressure. Therefore, we decided to implement AI to help solve the problem of measuring patient eye pressure while taking into account variations in different patient conditions, ”they said.

What’s next for HOPES

After finding out that HOPES had won the James Dyson Prize, the team were approached by a few local and foreign companies and venture capitalists who wanted to learn more about their invention.

“It was a pleasant surprise and it offers some interesting opportunities. We are open to discussions on how we can go further and make this a reality, ”the team said.

The students also plan to collaborate with clinicians at NUH to collect and analyze patient eye pressure data to train the device’s machine learning mode.

They are currently focusing on optimizing the performance of HOPES, improving its design and working with local hospitals in Singapore to pilot HOPES in the near future.

Winning the international James Dyson Award, the team said, “With this victory, we hope that in the future people will be able to measure their eye pressure in a pain-free home environment. We want to improve people’s quality of life and one day aspire to apply the sensor technology of our research group to different health monitoring applications, such as robotics and biomedical devices.

The HOPES Team / Image Credit: James Dyson Award, NUS

Commenting on the victory in Singapore, Sir James Dyson, Founder and Chief Engineer at Dyson, said: “I have seen how invasive and unpleasant testing for glaucoma can be, but it is a vital test.

“This group of young people has tackled an issue that does not affect them directly, but affects members of their families. Their work has the potential to make glaucoma screening tests much more widely available and I wish them every success as they navigate the difficult process of further development and medical approvals, ”said James.

The James Dyson Award is administered and managed by the James Dyson Foundation, an international charity that aims to nurture and inspire a new generation of design engineers and inventors.

Dyson because the company is not involved in the administration of the James Dyson Prize and does not engage in the recruitment, research or further development of student inventions, Dyson said in response to questions.

“Participants retain absolute ownership of any intellectual property surrounding their ideas. The most comprehensive support for the award comes in the form of media exposure and the sharing of external contacts that can help support their journey to commercialization, ”he added.

Featured Image Credit: James Dyson Award, NUS

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