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The Future of Healthcare: “Tracking a person’s eye movements to diagnose brain injuries” with Dr. Uzma Samadani of Oculogica

There is an ethical component to the development of eye-tracking technology: It allows one person to understand how another person’s brain functions. It’s amazing technology but also must be used responsibly and for the right reasons. Asa part of my series about “The Future of Healthcare” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Uzma Samadani of […]

There is an ethical component to the development of eye-tracking technology: It allows one person to understand how another person’s brain functions. It’s amazing technology but also must be used responsibly and for the right reasons.


Asa part of my series about “The Future of Healthcare” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Uzma Samadani of Oculogica.

Thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was five years old. It’s a short story. I’ve just always wanted to do this work and so I’ve spent my life getting to this point.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Oculogica has invented the EyeBOX, which tracks a person’s eye movements to diagnose brain injuries. The proprietary technology collects and analyzes 100,000 data points to generate an assessment unique to each patient. The EyeBOX, now with FDA Market Authorization, heralds in a new era for concussion assessment.

How do you think this will change the world?

Every eight seconds, someone gets a brain injury. Classifying the nature of the injury is very difficult because the current standard of care is just physical examination and imaging. EyeBOX will change the way brain injury is diagnosed and defined.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

There is an ethical component to the development of eye-tracking technology: It allows one person to understand how another person’s brain functions. It’s amazing technology but also must be used responsibly and for the right reasons.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I was running a clinical trial and needed an outcome measure. I asked the FDA if we could use functional MRI for our trial but they told us to use something safer for brain injured people, so we decided to try to assess how well someone can watch a TV. When people in our study watched TV, some were less able to track what was happening on the screen than others. We started following their eye movements which led us to determine that those with a head injury had abnormal movements compared to uninjured people. The nature of the abnormal movement indicates the nature of the brain problem. This experience led me to develop the eye-tracking technology that Oculogica is now bringing mainstream, to diagnose people who have had a brain trauma. We can now pinpoint if they have trauma, how bad, and where the damage is in the brain.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

The technology needs to be made more portable and less expensive.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Success depends so much on the execution of the concept, after the big idea has been born.
  2. It’s not enough for us to demonstrate our technology, we also have to show that it can be profitable for someone, or it won’t be used.
  3. There are many copycats out there. Someone has a brilliant idea, and then another person copies it, but not very well. This creates noise in the field that impacts the success of the original idea.
  4. In addition to money, an entrepreneur can get so much more from an investor — like resources and connections, allowing the new business to build a community of support. This was such a welcome surprise. We have been so fortunate to have investors like Sofia Fund, the angel fund that invests exclusively in women-owned and women-led companies. They provide many additional resources important to our success, beyond their investment.
  5. Not all angel investors are alike. Many invest in businesses just because they were started by a woman. We don’t want that. That’s why we pitched to Sofia Fund, because it backs women entrepreneurs but those entrepreneurs must have a solid business model and an idea that solves real problems for people. They look for big ideas that have the potential to change the world. It just so happens that many ideas like this happen to come from women.

The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?

A person has to keep learning new things, keep reading and keep working hard.

Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?

Of course, I would invest in my own company! I believe our technology will save lives. If I had an extra $1 million after that, I would invest in surgical robots. But it’s one toy at a time for me!

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Morality. I do what I do, both as a neurosurgeon and now an entrepreneur, for patients and people. Every day, I am guided by putting the best interests of others first.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Resiliency. I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was five years old. Now I also want to bring a technology that will change so many lives to the market. I don’t give up.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

This technology will become standard of care for suspected brain injury in the future. Eye-tracking technology for diagnosing concussions and as a general neurodiagnostic is where EEG was in the 1950’s.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/company/oculogica/about/
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