Paris, France, 2018/01/26. A consortium of European industrial, scientific and medical partners has met for 2 days in Paris to kick off the MERLIN project, with the common ambition of developing breakthrough medical instrumentation for imaging the back of the eye. The medical applications of MERLIN encompass a wide range of pathologies that impact the eye’s retina, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as well as chronic vascular conditions, including diabetes. This project has received € 4.868M in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 780989. “AMD and diabetic retinopathy are the leading cause of blindness worldwide in people over 55 years of age. As these diseases develop slowly at the microscopic scale in the retina, we need further advances in imaging in order to detect them at early stage”, says Michel Paques, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Quinze-Vingt National Eye Hospital in Paris, France. “Several highly promising new treatments for retinal diseases are approaching commercialization, yet we are still missing imaging techniques able to provide quick read-outs of therapeutic effectiveness”, says Michael Larsen, Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the Rigshospitalet and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
The MERLIN project will address these critical needs with a new retinal imaging device. The objective is to provide three-dimensional views and analyses of changes in single cells and in the smallest blood vessels inside patients’ eyes. Fast non-contact examinations with the MERLIN device will offer a level of detail that is currently unavailable to doctors. To achieve these goals, the project will combine several cutting-edge technologies, including scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (SLO), optical coherence tomography (OCT), multimodal image registration and segmentation, as well as adaptive optics (AO), which have been previously developed by the MERLIN partners.
“MERLIN gives us a fantastic opportunity to closely collaborate with prominent scientific and medical experts, and transfer the most advanced retinal imaging technology from laboratories to hospitals”, says Xavier Levecq, chief technical officer at Imagine Eyes and coordinator of MERLIN. The project consortium unites the following partners: Imagine Eyes SA (France), the Medical University of Viena (Austria), the ICFO the Institute of Photonics Sciences (Spain), the Erasmus Medical Center’s Biomedical Imaging Group Rotterdam (Netherlands), the INSERM at Quinze-Vingts National Eye Hospital (France), and the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen (Denmark).