Fighting the global myopia epidemic with digital technology: Dopavision, a Berlin-based digital health startup, is developing an innovative treatment for one of the largest medical needs in the world. After winning German government funding of € 1.4 million in 2018, Dopavision has successfully attracted venture investors for a seed investment of € 1.2 million. Lead investor Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund together with business angel Ralf Meister and the existing shareholder Flying Health have closed the startup’s financing round in May 2019.
Myopia, or shortsightedness, is a visual condition that affects on average every third person. The problem continues to grow rapidly, with a massive increase expected as a consequence of smart device use by children and adolescents. High myopia is a serious medical condition that can lead to severe vision deficits like retinal detachment and even blindness. Dopavision is developing a digital therapeutic that aims at slowing down myopia progression in children and adolescents through the activation of dopamine. Proof-of-concept experiments conducted together with a German university confirmed the scientific hypothesis behind the technology which has been filed for patent in 2017.
“Myopia is growing at alarming speeds globally, and particularly in Asia”, says Dr. Hamed Bahmani, founder and managing director of Dopavision. “Since the light stimulus in Dopavision’s approach is delivered from a digital device like a smartphone, it is truly a digital therapeutic. Its specific advantage is that it’s invisible to the user, because the stimulated cells on the retina are not part of the image-forming visual system. Therefore, the treatment can be combined with other activities on the device like games or watching movies”, explains Dr. Bahmani.
Stefan Zundel, co-founder and managing director of Dopavision, adds: “We are grateful for the trust placed in us by our investors, and we are very excited to welcome Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund as a new partner. With a leading global pharma company in the background, their experience in therapeutics development, clinical studies and commercialization of treatments will help greatly to build the next-generation myopia treatment.”
“There is an enormous medical need for myopia control globally, and we see Dopavision as a radical new approach that can change the entire field”, explains Dr. Oliver Reuß, Executive Director and Investment Manager of Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund. “This investment also reflects our strong interest in the back-of-the-eye disease area. We are convinced that digital therapeutics will play an important role as a treatment technology in health care in the future, and we’re excited to be part of the development of a breakthrough technology.”
The team will use the capital to perform pre-clinical experiments, making it one of the world’s first digital therapeutics to be validated in an animal model. “First experimental results were very promising”, says Dr. Bahmani, “now we’re excited to develop the technology into a medical device for human application.” Future applications may not be limited to myopia only, since dopamine is an important neurotransmitter involved in many physiological processes.
Dr. Oliver Reuß and Ralf Meister are joining the Advisory Board of Dopavision together with Christian Lautner of Flying Health and Stefan Zundel of Dopavision.
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Dopavision is developing a digital therapeutic for myopia which can be seamlessly and invisibly integrated with the use of a smartphone. Myopia, or shortsightedness, is a visual condition that affects on average every third person globally, a share that has increased rapidly during the last two decades. It has grown to alarming proportions in Asia where prevalence rates, e.g., in Singapore, have reached 80% among young adults. High myopia imposes a significant risk to cause visual impairment and even blindness later in life.
The goal of the Berlin-based startup is to develop a clinically validated therapy for myopia progression in children and adolescents. The technology delivers light stimulation to specific photosensitive cells on the retina which in turn modulate dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is important for the regulation of eye growth. Founded in 2017, Dopavision GmbH is supported by the German government via the “Industrie-in-Klinik” program of the BMBF (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung/German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) with the amount of
€ 1.4 million over three years (Aktionsfeld “Gesundheitswirtschaft im Rahmenprogramm Gesundheitsforschung”, Förderkennzeichen/contract number 13GW0256).
About Flying Health
Flying Health is the leading ecosystem for Next Generation Healthcare – made of bits and bytes. The company offers its partners from the healthcare system and industry as well as digital health startups an exclusive environment to bring digital diagnostic and therapeutic applications to market. By working closely with both traditional and new healthcare players, Flying Health is actively shaping next generation healthcare. The corporate partners include Siemens Healthineers, the Sana Kliniken AG, Pfizer Pharma PFE GmbH, Signal Iduna Krankenversicherung, Servier, Barmer, Teva with the Ratiopharm brand, the Thieme Group, Agaplesion gAG, medatixx GmbH & Co. KG, GWQ ServicePlus AG and the German Association of Research-based Pharmaceuticals (vfa).
About Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund
Created in 2010, the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund GmbH (BIVF) invests in groundbreaking therapeutics-focused biotechnology and digital health companies to drive innovation in medical research. BIVF is searching for significant enhancements in patient care through pioneering science and its clinical translation by building long-term relationships with scientists and entrepreneurs. BIVF’s focus is to target unprecedented therapeutic and digital concepts addressing high medical needs in immuno-oncology, regenerative medicine, infectious diseases, patientcare management, adherence management and digital therapeutics.
BIVF takes an active role with its portfolio companies – delivering significant added value through its own scientific and managerial expertise. BIVF has € 250 million under management and currently supervises a portfolio of 25+ companies.