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Protecting Intellectual Property

Millions of people in the United States—and many more around the world—have suffered vision loss or blindness as a result of diabetic retinopathy, a complication of the chronic disease. Some didn’t even know they had diabetes when the vision loss occurred.

Early detection of the condition can lead to effective treatment. Professor Ann Elsner, a leading expert in retinal imaging, and her team, which includes IU senior scientist Benno Petrig and optical engineer Matt Muller, wanted to make diagnosis more affordable. Together, they developed a low-cost laser-scanning digital camera that is easy to use and cheaper to build and started their own company, Aeon Imaging, LLC.

IURTC has worked with Aeon Imaging in numerous ways: providing support with commercialization, business plans, and patent applications; seeking potential business partners; and facilitating the company’s collaboration with other institutions such as Purdue.

One challenge of the project—making the precision motor for the camera more affordable—has been supported by a $75,000 grant from the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Initiative to work in collaboration with Purdue University mechanical engineer Henry Zhang.

Elsner and Aeon Imaging have received research and development funding from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and BioEngineering, the National Eye Institute, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the Small Business Innovation Research Program, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Elsner, who holds a number of patents for inventions related to her research, notes that the novel scanning-and-detection system developed at Aeon could be employed in many different biomedical imaging devices generating widespread cost savings. “This project is eventually about putting our health dollars where they count,” she says.