SME of the Week: Dem Dx wins grant to improve ophthalmology services in Rwanda

SME of the Week and DigitalHealth.London Launchpad company Dem Dex has won a grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to improve ophthalmology services in Rwanda.

The GCRF is investing up to £9.3 million in prototype stage projects, including the Dem Dx Ophthalmology Clinical Platform, with the potential to transform lives in developing countries. The aim of this competition is to find transformative commercial solutions that address societal challenges, recognised by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Dem Dx’s mission is to empower healthcare professionals at the frontline, including those specialised in eye treatment, to deliver improved healthcare, with the use of an intuitive clinical support platform.

Visual impairment affects 285 million people globally, with 87% predominantly located in low-, and middle-income countries. In Rwanda, there are currently only 16 ophthalmologists and 140 Ophthalmic Clinical Officers (OCOs) that serve the 12.3 million population – the equivalent to one ophthalmologist treating over 700,000 people, compared to 1:100,000 in the EU.

Dem Dx, a Medtech commercial platform, aims to address this challenge by adapting its innovative Ophthalmology Clinical Platform to provide a tool that trains OCOs, and supports them and other healthcare professionals in the clinical setting to reach more informed clinical decisions.

This cost-effective technology will help provide the much-needed local ophthalmology expertise, contribute to more patients receiving treatment, and reduce instances of preventable eye problems.

Dr. Mariane Melo, Medical Director of Dem Dx commented: “We are very excited to start this impactful partnership with the University of Rwanda and improve vision at scale in a country that has significant levels of treatable and preventable vision loss. Training healthcare professionals and providing quality eye services is the longstanding challenge of lower and middle-income countries with restricted budgets. This feasibility study will enable us to adapt the platform to the local need, and, if the project is successful, the platform could be applied to neighbouring markets.”

“The DigitalHealth.London Launchpad has supported us through 1-1 business strategy mentoring, network events, strategic communications workshop and an intellectual property clinic. This support enabled us to increase our network and get introduced to the University of Rwanda through the UK Government Links Programme, which aims to improve the quality and quantity of eye care training.”

Dem Dx has already developed an ophthalmology-specific product that is currently being used by nurses in Moorfield Eye Hospital NHS in London, an internationally renowned leading eye hospital, and Sunderland Eye Infirmary.