Our company, Adaptive Sensory Technology (AST), was spun out of Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Ohio State University (OSU), with a founding technology representing ten years of research and development.
As a graduate student in a program of experimental psychology at the University of Southern California, I was fortunate to be supervised by a physicist: my co-founder Zhong-Lin Lu. I learned the importance of careful experiments done with precision instruments. Together, we focused on the challenge of measuring subtle changes in the dynamics of sensory systems.
Medicine was transformed by the metrology of the thermometer. As a pioneer of Big Data, Carl Wunderlich amassed a dataset of millions of body temperatures, with up to six measures per day taken from 25,000 patients. The footlong body thermometer used in his studies was unwieldy and measurements required 20-30 minutes to stabilize. Its clinical impact was only truly realized when Thomas Albutt redesigned the thermometer into its smaller recognizable form, and measurements only required five minutes.
Tracking the clinical signals of eye disease is impossible without precision. The need for precision has motivated our development of a unique computational and statistical framework for clinical vision testing.
Theoretical development at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies motivated a move to the Schepens Eye Research Institute, to work on clinical applications with my co-founder, Peter Bex. The collaboration with clinical colleagues at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School, in addition to an introduction to Michael Dorr, computer scientist, co-founder, and CTO, provided me an exciting and stimulating environment to advance our adaptive testing technology from theory to practice.
We were proud that this technology was valuable in two studies evaluating contrast sensitivity changes—in visual adaptation and visual development—published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
This research success motivated the founding of AST, with the desire to deliver to clinicians the advanced, quantitative tools for detecting changes in functional vision. With the goal of commercialization, I was grateful to have Ed Sanchez and Manuel Wille, formerly of Nik Software and Google, join our founding team. Their experience in developing and commercializing award-winning software provided the perfect complement to the technical expertise in the experimental, computational, and statistical methods of basic and clinical vision science.
The AST Manifold Platform with the qCSF algorithm is a medical technology that represents the foundation of our company. It is exciting to see our research translated into a product. We have applied our testing to measure contrast sensitivity deficits in low vision, age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, amblyopia, congenital and adult cataract, and Fabry’s disease. The same tools have been applied to evaluate how contrast sensitivity relates to operational performance in the duties of Air Force flightcrew.
The development of the AST Manifold Platform, which will enable precision assessments of vision on medical and mobile devices, will improve clinical evaluation of eye disease and enable smaller and shorter clinical trials. The ability to measure the contrast sensitivity function, a description of vision fundamental to basic and clinical vision science, has important implications for clinical applications—and for the health of people everywhere.