The eye team

Bioptigen has an ambitious goal: create systems and software capable of rendering ultra-accurate three-dimensional images of the entire eye.

The process is technically daunting, in part because eyes are tremendously complex and highly variable from one person to another. But the benefits of the technology — improved vision for millions of people with various eye conditions — could be life-changing on a grand scale.

“We need to be able to measure things that just have not been measured before,” said Dr. Eric Buckland, an NC State physics alumnus who is the Triangle-based company’s co-founder and CEO. “And we need to do that precisely enough so that it’s useful.”

Bioptigen specializes in a type of optical imaging known as Spectral Domain Optical Coherence Tomography. The technology enables simultaneous high-resolution imaging of multiple surfaces, such as the inside of the eye. Scanners produced by the company create unique, high-resolution eye representations that are used by ophthalmologists around the world.

The scanners work by rapidly acquiring a series of high resolution images of the eye that are compiled into a full three-dimensional picture. Segmentation algorithms identify boundaries of the various parts of the eye from these images, and then visual performance attributes of the eye can be computed.

But the current technology isn’t able to account for all of the one-of-a-kind features that distinguish one eye from another. Among the missing components is a precise calculation of each eye’s curvature.

“The computation for eye curvature is very sensitive to tiny differences in the segmentation process,” Mendlow said. “Even tiny errors can completely throw off the result and create an inaccurate depiction of the real curvature. It’s a really interesting problem, and it looks like no one has decided to tackle it.”

In the future, the work could contribute to better designs of contact lenses and also lead to earlier and more accurate diagnoses of eye-related diseases such as keratoconus and astigmatism.

Buckland has been supporting the project through a grant to the Department of Mathematics Graduate Industrial Traineeship Program. The program broadens traditional graduate education to include first-hand experience working with industry.

For Buckland, the partnership with Haider and Mendlow is not only an opportunity to help his company, but to maintain a connection with his alma mater.

“NC State formed the foundation of what I do today,” Buckland said. “I really feel that this College is my family.”