Avellino, a biotech startup based in Seoul, has developed a pioneering technology that has so far protected over 460 people from losing their sight. Avellino Corneal Dystrophy is a genetic condition which weakens eyesight over time, leading to visual impairment or even total blindness. Avellino’s proprietary DNA testing solution has been used by over 460,000 patients prior to LASIK surgery, with the test determining the presence of the condition with 100% accuracy.
“Avellino Corneal Dystrophy is a point mutation, meaning that only one genetic sequence out of thousands has been affected. This makes it very difficult to detect with existing testing methods. While the test we have developed is based on traditional genetic sequencing, it is able to identify even this minor abnormality.” Chairman & CEO of Avellino Lab China Holdings Gene Lee said.
While there is currently no treatment for Avellino Cornea Dystrophy, the benefit of early detection has already saved the eyesight of over 460 patients, with this number growing as the test expands globally. The company has developed new DNA tests for other corneal dystrophies, with R&D focusing on the early detection of other important eye diseases. So far Avellino has contracted their technology to 64 clinics in the US alone and it is used in 40 countries worldwide. By collecting data from nearly 500,000 patients they have been able to test other hypotheses that will likely deliver benefits to a much wider group of patients, as well as the general public.
Avellino is now planning to bring their technology to China, the fastest growing LASIK market in the world. China has already around 1.2 million LASIK patients a year, and it’s predicted that the figure could surpass 5 million within five years. The company already has a Hong Kong-based holding company to service Chinese markets, though their operations will be run from a local HQ in Shanghai. Three notable Chinese advisors have also been appointed to ensure the market is educated about the benefits of the technology in protecting potential LASIK patients with Avellino Corneal Dystrophy from blindness.
The company signed its first partnership with an eye clinic in Japan and achieved a license to perform diagnostic testing in the US. With US clinics now using the service, it has been recommended by optometrists to be compulsory prior to any LASIK surgery. Supported by a Korean government agency, Born2Global, the company was awarded ‘Korea Global Venture Grand Prize‘ last year. CEO Lee is travelling to Belgium in early March this year to discuss the company’s future with international investors.
Image Credit: ShutterStock, Avellino
Reporter: Eva Yoo