Maculaser combats blindness
Blindness – caused by major retinal diseases – is a significant health challenge around the world. According to estimates, the global direct healthcare burden caused by retinal diseases is currently over € 400 billion. Introducing temperature-control to non-damaging retina laser is a real game-changer, believes Helsinki-based medtech company Maculaser.
Maculaser is one of the companies determined to fight blindness. By targeting retinal diseases, this medical technology company aims to radically change how the common retinopathies and age-related macular degeneration are treated in the future.
Maculaser uses non-damaging laser treatments aimed to induce regenerative effects of temperature elevation without damaging retinal tissues. Maculaser achieves safe and effective non-damaging retinal laser treatment by monitoring retinal temperature during the heating, explains Jani Tirronen, CEO, Co-Founder, at Maculaser.
“The retina is stimulated with light pulses, and its temperature is determined from the temperature-dependent properties of the electroretinogram (ERG) responses,” he says, adding that the retinal temperature determination method enables optimal heating with high reliability.
Tirronen acknowledges that so far, non-damaging laser treatments have already proven to be effective in the field of medicine, but the lack of patient-specific temperature and safety controls significantly limit the efficacy and utilization of the treatments.
“Maculaser has solved the main problem which is the real-time temperature control of the retina during these treatments,” Tirronen says. The Maculaser technology enables ophthalmologists (eye doctors) to perform optimal non-damaging laser therapy without the risk of retinal damage, he adds.
“This is a potential game-changer in the treatment of currently untreatable diseases such as dry AMD.”
Aalto innovation edge
Founded this year by Tirronen and his fellow entrepreneurs Teemu Turunen and Ossi Kaikkonen, Maculaser has roots in an Aalto University research program which started in 2013.
“Business Finland backed a commercialization program started in 2018, and in 2020 the company was set up to bring the technology and novel treatment to the markets,” Tirronen goes over the timeline.
The original Aalto research program sought a treatment for dry AMD and arrived at the conclusion that non-damaging laser treatment offers the most promising solution for managing AMD. There is strong scientific evidence that heating retinal tissue/retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) brings about a range of beneficial effects on unhealthy RPE.
Looking into the future, Tirronen is optimistic about the startup’s chances of making a big breakthrough in the global market.
“Retinal diseases are the leading cause of blindness and, at present, the medical need is mostly unmet. We believe we can have a major impact on the field,” he says, adding that commercial success is likely to follow proven medical excellence.
Maculaser is one of the batch 1 companies in Health Incubator Helsinki, a long-term business development environment for research-based health startups, that started operations in Helsinki in 2020. Talking about the startup’s experiences about Health Incubator Helsinki, Tirronen describes that it is about connecting with likeminded entrepreneurs as well as getting new ideas and contacts from business coaches – especially in terms of funding.
“So far, it has been an inspiring environment to operate in.”
Rooted in research
According to Tirronen, Finland does a good job of creating broad university and research-based innovation platforms.
“Furthermore, there is a rapidly rising positive attitude towards research-based entrepreneurship in Finland.”
In his mind, the society is relatively uncomplicated and stress-free.
“Unless you’re running a startup, that is,” Tirronen grins.
Startup Fast Facts:
Name: Maculaser Oy
Product: Temperature-controlled non-damaging retina laser
Team size: 3
Target customer/market: 25,000 eye-clinics world-wide
Text: Sami J. Anteroinen
Photo and graphics: Maculaser