Retinal Scan for Alzheimer’s Launches in Canada

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A project to screen of Alzheimer’s in community settings involves collaboration between optometry professionals and an Alzheimer’s advocacy organization in Toronto, Canada. Find out more.


The unique initiative, led by the Toronto Memory Program and RetiSpec, is funded by the Inaugural Global Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative (DAC) Grant program for Healthcare System Preparedness.

RetiSpec is a Toronto-based medical imaging company building advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the detection of neurodegenerative diseases.

The project implements a pragmatic and community-driven model to increase rates of cognitive testing and biological marker assessment for individuals aged 65 and over through two entry points: (1) optometry clinics, where individuals can receive a RetiSpec retinal scan for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease; and (2) the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, where individuals can undergo cognitive assessment.

The Screening

RetiSpec, in collaboration with the Toronto Memory Program and the Alzheimer Societies of Ontario and Toronto, among other local partners, is implementing the world’s first screening model that leverages a partnership between optometry and a local Alzheimer Society to identify individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Optometrists in a community-based setting will incorporate memory complaints into their history taking, will invite patients with memory complaints to receive a RetiSpec retinal scan to detect the biologic signatures of Alzheimer’s disease, and will refer patients with memory complaints to the Alzheimer Society of Toronto for cognitive testing.

Cognitive test results will be provided to the patient’s primary care provider. For those patients who do not have a family physician, a referral will be made to Toronto Memory Program for further diagnosis and care.

The program will evaluate the risks, benefits, facilitators, and barriers experienced by these community-based settings in order to foster other sustainable healthcare system access points.

Targeting untapped access points

“This grant gives us an important opportunity to leverage novel technology and novel points of access for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that is currently fraught with underdiagnosis, late diagnosis, and misdiagnosis,” said Dr. Sharon Cohen, neurologist, and Medical Director of Toronto Memory Program, and the Principal Investigator for this Davos-supported study.

This is the world’s first study enabling eye clinics to participate in Alzheimer’s screening as well as to share biomarker results with a qualified clinician.

“There is an urgent need to improve the detection of Alzheimer’s disease without overburdening our already stretched family practitioners and dementia specialists.

“With low barrier community points of access, which have previously been untapped, we have a chance to augment our dementia workforce and improve dementia detection in a more timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner.”

Nonvasive screening during eye exam

The project will provide a robust and informative model that can be scaled across Canada as well as to global jurisdictions and is uniquely positioned to strengthen and better prepare our healthcare systems.

Project partners include RetiSpec, Toronto Memory Program, Alzheimer Society of Toronto, Alzheimer Society of Ontario, Ontario Brain Institute, Ontario Association of Optometrists, Summerhill Optometry, and The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI).

“RetiSpec’s technology can be used to rapidly and noninvasively screen people during their routine eye exams, offering an easy, accessible, and scalable alternative to current methods of Alzheimer’s disease detection,” Eliav Shaked, CEO, and Co-founder of RetiSpec said.

Early detection in eyecare settings

“We have successfully integrated our solution into neurology and research settings, as a part of our clinical validation. We are building on this traction and expanding to eye care settings, which offer a unique venue to maximize access to screening.

“RetiSpec will generate significant market insights to commercialize and implement our solution and support the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease in eye care settings.

This grant is going to help us take a big step in that direction and we look forward to sharing these learnings with the global community.”

Global network to benefit

The project team, led by Toronto Memory Program and RetiSpec, will join a global network of 12 grant projects, all part of the DAC Healthcare System Preparedness project, which aims to advance how healthcare systems worldwide detect, diagnose, treat, and care for people with or at risk for Alzheimer’s.

“We are excited to see how Toronto Memory Program and RetiSpec can be part of our efforts to create new pathways to early detection, and look forward to helping to link and scale their successes to our partners around the world,” said George Vradenburg, Founding Chairman of the Board, Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative.

Toronto Memory Program and RetiSpec will have an opportunity to extend their impact by sharing best practices through DAC Learning Labs, communities of practice events, and other forums, all designed to share learnings and successes and encourage transformative action with healthcare systems around the globe.

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