Parents with children in sports often worry about concussions. It's an anxiety that one western Wisconsin company is trying to allay with technology.
The EyeBox, developed and sold by New Richmond, Wis.-based Oculogica Inc., can help diagnose a possible concussion in less than four minutes — 220 seconds, to be precise.
Rather than trusting a patient's self-reported symptoms, the EyeBox tracks eye movement to tell the truth about the current condition of the patient's brain.
The latest version of EyeBox secured FDA clearance in January and is now being launched. On Tuesday, St. Paul-based Minnetronix Medical announced it had been selected to manufacture Oculogica's device.
The noninvasive, battery-operated machine uses an algorithm and machine learning to assess "cranial nerve function through eye-tracking abnormalities and micro-eye movements."
"We're selling our first ones; we've got a small waiting list," said Rosina Samadani, CEO of Oculogica.
Her sister, Uzma Samadani, founded the company in 2013 when she was based in New York. Uzma Samadani is a Twin Cities neurosurgeon and associate professor at the University of Minnesota.
The EyeBox received its first FDA clearance in December 2018; the latest is the company's fourth clearance. It is the first, and so far only, device of its type to secure FDA clearance.
Rosina Samadani, the company's CEO, said there were only 40 to 50 total devices from the three previous versions in existence, but she noted business slowed at the peak of the pandemic.
Oculogica does not sell the device outright. Instead, customers sign an annual lease that covers the device, service, software and updates.
"Youth athletics is a huge market," CEO Samadani said. Other clients could include children's hospitals, large pediatric groups, sports medicine facilities and urgent care clinics.
Samadani declined to provide specific prices but said "it's what we would call accessible pricing. We tried to make it really manageable."
You don't need a doctor's order to get an EyeBox exam, she said, but each state has different guidelines about who can diagnose a concussion.
The latest version is more compact and lighter than previous editions, weighing 11 pounds and small enough to fit inside a backpack.
Matt Adams, general manager of Minnetronix, said his firm's expertise with complex optical systems helped win the Oculogica contract.
Last fall, Minnetronix completed a $6 million update of its three-building campus, expanding its space from 120,000 square feet to 160,000 square feet. The company has nearly 500 employees.
"We're thrilled to see this partnership come together. It's a testament to the deep concentration of talent in Minnesota," said Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, in a statement. "The opportunity for Minnesotans to work on cutting-edge projects like these is a boon to our labor market and attracts and retains great talent in our state."
As for why the company is based in New Richmond, Rosina Samadani said: "Our first engineer was hired out of that area. The headquarters are 10 minutes from his house."