Azul Optics has developed a new technology to assess our eye’s natural protection against harmful blue light and oxidative damage (macular pigment density). A low level of macular pigment can indicate a higher risk of blindness from Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). In the UK alone, AMD affects more than 600,000 people and is estimated to cost the healthcare system £1.6bn annually. Its device, the MP-eye, is designed for optometrists and enables them to identify people who are at increased risk early so that they can be empowered to take preventative actions such as wearing protective eyewear and hats, quitting smoking, improving diet and or taking supplements and increasing fitness, all of which can reduce the risks of going blind later in life.
Environmental factors have always been a factor in the design of the product. The device will last 20 years and has no disposable parts. It is made in the UK, using relatively small friendly manufacturing processes.
The social impact of healthy ageing is the main driver for the business. The device measures young people and identifies a potential risk that they may have long into the future and encourages them to improve their lifestyle so they don’t have issues later.
There are around 250 devices in use in the market now and each of those is measuring thousands of people a year. It is having a significant impact on all of those people’s lives. For example, people are quitting smoking, changing their diet, becoming more active, or wearing sunglasses, which helps protect blindness, stop cancers and cataracts etc.
“During the business planning period, I actually made a significant pivot to my business model. I had initially conceived that my device would be available in doctors waiting rooms for people to undertake the test themselves, but the feedback I got from the marketplace was that this wasn’t a good idea. They felt that people wouldn’t understand the results and would actually be left without support if the results showed increased risk. It was at this point that I changed my business model to target optometrists – as it would be better for eyecare professionals to adopt the technology first.
“ICURe afforded me a very large number of the connections and networks that have been important to different parts of our business in different ways. Some of them have become distributors, some of them are key opinion leaders and the first users of the device in their practices. Some of these connections also continue to be helpful advisors today.
“We went from med tech company concept to breakeven within four years, which is relatively unheard of, so we’re very proud of our successes. However, the impacts of COVID were longer lasting than we expected. The long sales cycle meant the impact of two years without attending trade shows led to a dramatic decrease in sales in 2022.
“Around that time, we were approached by a company in Italy who wanted to acquire us. We realised we have a good product; we’ve developed the software and the product itself, we have evidenced that it performs well in the market, i.e. it helps patients, it helps optometrists sell more products, and helps adjust behaviour.”
Dr Shelby Temple, CEO, Azul Optics
Started on ICURe programme
Innovate UK funding received
Named BBSRC Innovator of the Year
UK distributor signed on and distributors in 20 other countries engaged
Trials with global partners begin
Private investment funding received
Looking to sell the company
What companies had to say about the ICURe programme?
“The ICURe programme drives you to develop a business plan at an early stage. This is so useful, as it accelerates your thinking beyond academia, which is mainly based around the technology. This is combined with the intensive market research; over the course of four months I spoke to 105 people from across five countries, which enables you to quickly understand if there is a market for your product."
Dr Shelby Temple
CEO, Azul Optics
Having achieved what Azul Optics was set up to do and without a recurring revenue to justify long term investment and maintain a profitability in the future, the next step is to find a buyer for the company who can drive the business forward.