Novartis Acquires Amblyotech as it Pursues Novel Digital Therapy for ‘Lazy Eye’

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BASEL, Switzerland—Novartis (NYSE: NVS) has completed the acquisition of Amblyotech, a U.S.-based software startup, and will, in collaboration with Ubisoft and McGill University, pursue the development of the acquired digital technology for the treatment of amblyopia, or lazy eye, according to an announcement on Monday. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Lazy eye is a leading cause of vision loss in children and young adults, the announcement noted. Designed to enhance compliance, Amblyotech utilizes active gaming and passive video technology with 3-D glasses, training the eyes to work together to view an image in full.

Its software employs a unique visual presentation, called dichoptic display, where each eye is presented with different images using a proprietary algorithm. In early clinical studies, Amblyotech’s software demonstrated improvements in vision in both children and adults with faster onset compared to standard of care treatments, according to the announcement.

With the transaction closing, Novartis plans to work in partnership with video game developer, Ubisoft, to develop the Amblyotech software as a medical device (SaMD), create a series of engaging games for the device, and conduct a proof of concept study (PoC), planned for later in 2020.

It is estimated that amblyopia affects roughly 3 percent of the global population, some of whom could be appropriate candidates for this therapy if approved, the announcement noted. The condition can lead to poor vision and other quality of life issues if left untreated. The condition can impact children and adults beyond their vision, making it difficult to drive and maintain a sense of autonomy. Current treatment options, including patching and/or atropine, are associated with low compliance and low success rates.

“By offering a noninvasive solution that has the potential to be significantly faster than current standards of care such as patching for children and adults impacted by lazy eye, Amblyotech’s software is a great example of how we can reimagine medicine using digital technology,” Nikos Tripodis, Novartis’ global business franchise head, ophthalmology, said in the announcement.

“We look forward to using our deep clinical development expertise in ophthalmology to accelerate this platform toward regulatory approval, and our global commercial footprint to maximize access for patients who need it,” Tripodis said.