Taiwanese doctors develop new optical slit lamp at Stanford University

By combining optical, medical and wireless transmission technology, two doctors from Taiwan, Jonathan Tsung-yu Ho and David Tsu-wang Shen, have successfully developed a simple and easy-to-operate slit lamp for eye observation. Unlike traditional models, that are big and bulky, the newly developed SlitEYE is only 12.5cm (4.9 inches) in length. It is not only lightweight, but is also compatible with smart phones. Its portability makes it suitable for use in a physician’s office and for providing emergency first aid.

Dr. Ho and Dr. Shen are members of the Stanford-Taiwan Biomedical Fellowship Program (STB), sponsored by the National Science Council (NSC) of Taiwan. Initiated by a cooperation agreement between Taiwan’s NSC and the School of Medicine, Stanford University, in November 2007, the program accepts Taiwanese physicians and engineers for a year-long training program, where they are immersed in Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture. So far, a total of 24 members have participated in the program, and 19 have completed their training, returning to Taiwan with significant research and development experience to add to the medical equipment industry on the island.

The STB participants are already talented practitioners in Taiwan’s engineering, medical, life sciences and a multitude of other areas. Dr. Ho was a former resident physician in the Ophthalmology Department of the Taipei Veterans General Hospital. While working with patients there, he felt that the traditional slit lamps were not user friendly. Ho met Dr. Shen from Tzu Chi University (Hualien County, eastern Taiwan), where he specializes in biochemical machinery, biological signal processing and artificial intelligence. They joined forces to develop the SlitEYE, which is vastly more user friendly in taking eyeball measurements and assessing eye focus. The device is easy to carry, attaches to different lenses, and uses energy efficient LED lights.

Silicon Valley venture capitalists also see a promising future for the device  and hope to have it in production later this year. They will be entering a global market estimated to be worth US$947 million by 2017, with a projected annual growth rate of 4 percent. The price will be tagged at less than US$500, while a traditional lamp costs over US$2,500 per set.

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