NJIT-based vision therapy startup secures backing from NJHF’s venture arm

New Jersey Institute of Technology announced Tuesday OculoMotor Technologies, a health care startup, has received a $500,000 commitment from the Foundation Venture Capital Group, an affiliate of New Jersey Health Foundation.

The startup, which was founded in a biomedical engineering lab on NJIT’s campus, created a device that uses virtual reality gaming to correct a vision dysfunction. It was designed and developed by a professor and team of students that are now alumni.

The startup previously received two $50,000 innovation grants from NJHF to advance the device. This is the first NJIT-originated company to secure equity capital from the NJHF’s venture group.

“It would be easy for me to view NJHF’s investment as the culmination of years of hard work — but, in reality, it’s barely the first step on a long journey. Their investment serves as validation of all that we’ve already done, and enables the amazing opportunity for us to develop our prototype into a fully fledged commercially available product,” said John Vito d’Antonio-Bertagnolli, one of the developers in Professor Tara Alvarez’s lab who is now OMT’s CEO.

The device is designed to measure and correct convergence insufficiency, and eye motor disorder. The disorder is characterized by a person’s eyes failing to coordinate as they turn inward to focus on a near object. CI currently has a clinical population between 4% and 17% of the general population as well as 35% of the stroke population and 50% of the brain injury population with post-concussion syndrome, the group said.

With CI as a key biomarker for concussion, the platform is currently being tested in children’s hospitals across the country. The device is a computer game played with the eyes, while a hidden camera measures its movements.

“This marks a milestone as our first investment in an NJIT-originated company and we are excited to work closely with the OMT team as they continue to advance their therapeutic product toward commercialization,” George F. Heinrich, vice chair and CEO of NJHF, said.

With the capital, the team has purchased equipment, secured space at NJIT VentureLink and hired a team of undergraduate computer science students to automate the platform’s data processing function.

The team also plans to hire consultants to evaluate regulatory pathways to produce a therapeutic product that has been validated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration.