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It is the largest medical university in the Arab world and is initially taking 200 ODoc units, valued at more than $US200,000 ($NZ306,500), with the potential to buy 5000 more for use throughout the Saudi Kingdom.
Current orders stand at fewer than 100 units.
Dunedin-based company ODoc has created a portable eye-care kit that uses a 3-D printer and smartphone to create ocular imaging adaptors that take photos of the eye and retina to diagnose sight-threatening diseases, including diabetes.
The aim is to get the easily transportable technology into lower socioeconomic communities where people would otherwise have to travel hundreds of kilometres for checkups.
ODoc’s chief executive, Dr Hong Sheng Chiong, who is an ophthalmologist registrar at Dunedin Hospital, signed the deal just three days ago in the Saudi Kingdom.
"This is an exciting, trail-blazing project and a first for New Zealand," he said.
King Saud University would be integrating ODoc’s smartphone ophthalmoscope as a tool for telemedicine in the primary care sector.
Dr Hong, now back in Dunedin, said yesterday the deal would allow ODoc to further increase its research and development programme.
The deal was "exclusively" with King Saud University, in that the university wanted to eventually take a testing programme national, on behalf of the Saudi Government.
Dr Hong, who had been in negotiation with the university for about four months, said ODoc’s product was attractive because 15% to 17% of Saudi patients presented with diabetes.
"In the Saudi kingdom, many people would have to travel hundreds of kilometres just to have their eyes checked at GPs or in community centres," he said.
Once the university adopted ODoc’s smartphone ophthalmoscope tool, it would then use ODoc’s AI [artificial intelligence, diagnostic] platform MedicMind to train with and develop its own model for detection of diabetic retinopathy and many other other retinal diseases.
Dr Hong said MedicMind had earlier this year created a world-first artificial intelligence medical platform for medical researchers and clinicians to auto-diagnose a large range of diseases, based on a single photograph by ODoc.
Dr Hong said Saudi Arabia had an ageing population and risked an epidemic of chronic diseases such as diabetes.
"A more sustainable solution can be achieved with proper planning and integration of technology," he said.
Dr Hong and his Dunedin team built the MedicMind diagnostic platform system specifically for medical researchers to have improved diagnostic healthcare, and to make AI more accessible.
• In 2015, Dr Hong won the top award at the Health Institute New Zealand’s Clinicians’ Challenge, winning the active project development category, and also the New Zealand Innovators Awards People’s Choice Award.