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Dunedin firm wins Expo 2020 Dubai Innovation Grant

10 Dec 2019

Dunedin ophthalmology firm oDocs is the only New Zealand firm to win an Expo Live Impact Innovation Grant, which gives the company an opportunity to be part of Expo 2020 Dubai next year.

The company, which was formed by Dr Hong Sheng Chiong and Dr Benjamin O’Keffe, received a $100,000 grant to further develop its vision technology.

“It is an enterprise with a mission to end preventable blindness through the use of affordable smartphone technology and artificial intelligence,” oDocs chief executive Hong Sheng Chiong says.

According to the World Health Organisation, visual impairment and blindness are a global problem, with at least 2.2 billion people suffering with the disability worldwide, and 80% of cases are preventable or treatable.

Hong developed a world first smartphone diagnostic kit which helps diagnose people who may have sight-threatening illnesses.

The invention is one in the eye for blindness, as the free app thinks it’s an eye doctor. His medical company, oDocs Eye Care, created the app kit that performs a similar function to $50,000 worth of eye examination equipment.

He says emergency eye care diagnosis can be slow, unresponsive and expensive. oDocs has created a portable eye care kit that uses a 3D printer and a smartphone to create ocular imaging adaptors that take pictures of the eye and retina.

 “There are other kits on the market that perform similar functions to the direct ophthalmoscope and are smart phone enabled, but they do not offer the same level of optics nor are they as affordable as our kit.”

Dr Hong has also won the Health Institute New Zealand’s Clinicians’ Challenge for his oDocs Eye Care initiative, and he won a New Zealand Innovators Awards People’s Choice Award.

“ODocs has also received additional co-funding from Callaghan Innovation to hire post-graduate research and development talent from the University of Auckland. We have already hired Renoh Johnson Chalakkal, a university research software engineer,” Hong adds.

So far, oDocs Eye Care is the first and only New Zealand company selected as part of Expo 2020 Dubai's community of global innovators.  At the moment, there is a total of 120 global innovators from 65 countries involved.

Dr Hong will meet the New Zealand commissioner for the Expo 2020 Dubai, Clayton Kimpton, in Dubai next year. The New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is hoping the oDocs win will inspire other Kiwi companies to participate at Expo 2020 Dubai, Hong says.

Expo 2020 Dubai will be the first World Expo ever hosted in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region, with 192 countries taking part and 25 million visits expected to attend from October 2020 to April 2021.