By Rebecca Covey
VUI Diagnostics, an invention which could dramatically speed up the diagnosis of diseases that lead to sight loss, took the Grand Prize at the Imperial College London Venture Catalyst Challenge, 2019.
VUI Diagnostics is founded by Imperial medical students Simon Rabinowicz and Uddhav Vaghela. They have created a device to help doctors detect eye disease earlier, which is more accurate, affordable, and simple than current devices, and is able to produce a full retinal image.
VCC is run by Enterprise Lab and is the College’s biggest entrepreneurial competition for students. In total the team have received over 45K in funding from the VCC competition, and by competing in the Institute of Global Health Student Challenges Competition earlier the same week. At VCC they won the Health & Wellbeing track, sponsored by P&G Ventures, the Audience Award, and took away the Grand Prize.
The team developed the concept for the product at Advanced Hackspace who gave them their first injection of funding to kick off their project. Uddhav says that “without ICAH, the project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground, which was just a science project to begin with”. The team had no previous funding and were not supported by a department or a program, so ICAH was the one place on campus that they could go to develop their invention. Says Simon, “we couldn’t have done it without the amazing facilities at the Hackspace, the Hackspace has been brilliant for us.”
In October 2018 Advanced Hackspace granted the team a Project Boost Grant of £500 which they say, “made all the difference”. The grant allowed them to purchase consumables to build their prototype, which saw five iterations during development.
In particular the team state that access to machinery including 3D printers, such as the Markforged and UPs, was fundamental to the project’s development.
As well as the ICAH facilities, Simon and Uddhav state that drawing on the expertise of Hackspace Fellows, Hackers in Residence, and their peers was essential to the development of their invention. In particular, they enjoy the community feel of ICAH, including easily accessible Fellows and a space to experiment and ask questions.
At ICAH they are able to work closely with other members, including connecting over electronics with Oliver Stark, who has developed an anthropomorphic robotic hand, and Nate Macabuag and Ben Lakey of Mitt Wearables, who had previously competed in VCC and made them aware of criteria to meet which would give them a robust chance in the competition.
Next steps for the team include coming back to ICAH to develop the product further, before trialling it at partnering hospitals where they will continue with validation testing. They also plan to work with ICAH mentor David Griffiths formerly of BP, who will help the team with intellectual property management and commercialisation.