Joslin Diabetes Center launches Veraxa Health to meet large unmet patient need for timely detection of diabetic eye disease

Boston 15 November 2006Joslin Diabetes Center, a global expert in diabetes research, care and education, has launched Veraxa Health Inc. as an independent company. The first for-profit spin-off in the centre's 100-plus year history, Veraxa will market the Joslin Vision Network (JVN), a proven retinal imaging device and clinical service developed by Joslin to address a significant patient need: detection and management of diabetic retinopathy and other ocular disorders. JVN is delivered via custom Joslin software and non-mydriatic cameras supplied by Topcon Medical Systems of Paramus, New Jersey, which also provided bridge funding to help accelerate Veraxa Health's growth in the market.


Diabetes is the leading cause of new-onset blindness in working-age adults across industrialized countries, yet millions of patients do not receive the regular, recommended eye care they require. Lack of ready access to eye care specialists, the need for pupil dilation and the frequent lack of symptoms when retinopathy is initially present are among the factors contributing to poor rates of annual eye examination for people with diabetes.

With JVN, Joslin researchers developed an imaging system and service that allow patients to receive regular retinal evaluations within a primary care practice, endocrinology office, or other clinical setting without the need for pupil dilation. By improving access to eye care, JVN increases the rate of ongoing disease surveillance and facilitates appropriate and timely referral of patients to eye care specialists when needed.

Preserving vision and improving the long-term quality of life for people with diabetes is core to Joslin's mission. "As a research institution, Joslin developed this technology for remote evaluation of patients. As a clinical centre, we use JVN to educate and counsel patients on appropriate care to prevent vision loss. Now, with Veraxa Health, a greater segment of the population can benefit from JVN technology", stated C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., President of Joslin Diabetes Center and the Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

JVN images, along with other key patient data, including blood pressure and A1C scores - the average blood glucose measurement during the two to three months before the date the A1C test was taken, obtained in the primary care physician's practice or endocrinologist's office, are transmitted securely via the Internet to the JVN Reading and Evaluation Center at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. There the images are evaluated by an expert team of ophthalmologists, optometrists and clinical staff. Utilizing the latest imaging technology, Joslin's expert team interprets images, identifies specific levels of diabetic retinopathy and provides appropriate clinical guidance for each patient. The Joslin team also identifies ocular pathologies other than diabetic retinopathy if observed.

JVN was founded by world-renowned Joslin ophthalmologist Lloyd M. Aiello, M.D., and internationally recognized leader in telehealth and tele-ophthalmology Sven-Erik Bursell, Ph.D., as a means to utilize technology and expertise to reach patient populations at risk of losing vision. Based on more than a decade of research, development, clinical use and validation, JVN has been shown to provide clinical retinal evaluation of diabetic retinopathy comparable to 35 mm stereo slides - the industry's "gold standard" for diabetic retinopathy exam, and comparable to a dilated retinal examination by a retinal specialist. JVN is currently deployed in more than 70 sites in 20 states nationwide, including locations within the Veterans Health Administration and Indian Health Service.

"Veraxa Health will focus on marketing JVN to primary care and endocrinology practices nationwide, in order to reach large patient populations and facilitate referrals to eye care providers when needed", stated Rick Morello, Chief Executive Officer and President, Veraxa Health. "With the strength of Joslin research, development and validation of JVN, Veraxa offers physicians a powerful clinical solution that helps patients take charge of their eye health."

While more than 90 percent of people with diabetes annually visit their primary care physician or endocrinologist, as few as 40 percent receive an annual eye exam with documented treatment guidance. In diabetic retinopathy, there may be no symptoms or pain, even with advanced disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 200 million people worldwide have diabetes and all are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy during their lifetimes. Early detection and consistent management enable prompt referral to an eye care specialist for appropriate intervention when needed.

According to Joslin ophthalmologist Lloyd Paul Aiello, M.D., Ph.D., director of Joslin Diabetes Center's Beetham Eye Institute and the JVN Reading and Evaluation Center, "The accuracy of JVN as a diagnostic tool for diabetic retinopathy has been rigorously described and validated in scientific peer review journals such as Ophthalmology, American Journal of Ophthalmology and Diabetes Care. In addition, the American Diabetes Association's (ADA) recommendations state that patients with diabetes have a dilated eye exam or a validated digital retinal image exam annually. JVN is a new tool to help realize the best care for these patients."

Privately held Veraxa Health Inc. markets the Joslin Vision Network (JVN), a proven technology and clinical service designed to prevent blindness and vision loss for people with diabetes. Based on more than a decade of research and development by Joslin Diabetes Center, JVN is the only diagnostic retinal evaluation service that offers patients with diabetes a pain-free and nondilated diabetic eye evaluation that has been validated against dilated eye exams by retinal specialists as well as the gold standard 35 mm film imaging. Veraxa Health has formed a strategic relationship with Topcon, an optics and electronics manufacturer, to deliver the required medical testing technology to primary care physicians, endocrinologists and other medical professionals who utilize JVN.

Joslin Diabetes Center, dedicated to conquering diabetes in all of its forms, is a global expert in diabetes research, care and education. Joslin's Beetham Eye Institute is named after William P. Beetham, M.D., who together with Lloyd M. Aiello, M.D., pioneered the use of a laser surgery technique for diabetic eye disease called scatter or panretinal photocoagulation. This technique has helped hundreds of thousands of people with diabetes reduce the risk of vision loss. Today, in addition to laser surgery, which is recognized as vital to treatment, the ophthalmologists of the Beetham Eye Institute offer many surgical interventions, including cataract, glaucoma, oculo-plastics and vitreo-retinal procedures. The Beetham Eye Institute conducts a wide range of research programmes to develop better means of identifying the causes of diabetic eye disease and to develop and test treatments to lessen the risks of visual loss.

Founded in 1898 by a single physician, Elliott P. Joslin, M.D., Joslin Diabetes Center is an independent non-profit institution affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Joslin Research is a team of more than 300 people at the forefront of discovery aimed at preventing and curing diabetes. Joslin Clinic, affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, the nationwide network of Joslin Affiliated Programmes and the hundreds of Joslin educational programmes offered each year for clinicians, researchers and patients, enable Joslin to develop, implement and share innovations that immeasurably improve the lives of people with diabetes. More news is available in the VMW March 2004 article Joslin Diabetes Center affiliated with prevecare to prevent type 2 diabetes from striking.

Leslie Versweyveld

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