Launch of novel Alzheimer’s screening program
May 25, 2022
TORONTO – Toronto Memory Program and RetiSpec have announced the launch of a unique initiative to screen for Alzheimer’s disease in community settings that involves collaboration between optometry and an Alzheimer’s advocacy organization in Toronto.
The initiative is funded by a grant that comes from the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative (DAC), the organization leading an unprecedented global response to Alzheimer’s disease.
This project implements a pragmatic and community-driven model to increase rates of cognitive testing and biological marker assessment for individuals aged 65 and over through two entry points:
- optometry clinics, where individuals can receive a RetiSpec retinal scan for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease;
- and the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, where individuals can undergo cognitive assessment.
Through this project, RetiSpec, in collaboration with Toronto Memory Program and the Alzheimer Societies of Ontario and Toronto, among other local partners, is implementing the world’s first screening model that leverages a partnership between optometry and a local Alzheimer Society to identify individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Optometrists in a community-based setting will incorporate memory complaints into their history taking, will invite patients with memory complaints to receive a RetiSpec retinal scan to detect the biologic signatures of Alzheimer’s disease, and will refer patients with memory complaints to the Alzheimer Society of Toronto for cognitive testing.
Cognitive test results will be provided to the patient’s primary-care provider. For those patients who do not have a family physician, referral will be made to Toronto Memory Program for further diagnosis and care.
The program will evaluate the risks, benefits, facilitators, and barriers experienced by these community-based settings in order to foster other sustainable healthcare system access points.
“This grant gives us an important opportunity to leverage novel technology and novel points of access for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that is currently fraught with underdiagnosis, late diagnosis, and misdiagnosis,” said Dr. Sharon Cohen (pictured), neurologist, and medical director of Toronto Memory Program, and the principal investigator for this Davos-supported study.
“This is the world’s first study enabling eye clinics to participate in Alzheimer’s screening as well as to share biomarker results with a qualified clinician. There is an urgent need to improve detection of Alzheimer’s disease without overburdening our already stretched family practitioners and dementia specialists.
“With low barrier community points of access, which have previously been untapped, we have a chance to augment our dementia workforce and improve dementia detection in a more timely, efficient, and cost effective manner.”
This project will provide a robust and informative model that can be scaled across Canada as well as to global jurisdictions and is uniquely positioned to strengthen and better prepare our healthcare systems.
Project partners include RetiSpec, Toronto Memory Program, Alzheimer Society of Toronto, Alzheimer Society of Ontario, Ontario Brain Institute, Ontario Association of Optometrists, Summerhill Optometry, and The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI).
“RetiSpec’s technology can be used to rapidly and noninvasively screen people during their routine eye exams, offering an easy, accessible, and scalable alternative to current methods of Alzheimer’s disease detection,” said Eliav Shaked, CEO and co-founder of RetiSpec.
“We have successfully integrated our solution into neurology and research settings, as a part of our clinical validation. We are building on this traction and expanding to eye care settings, which offer a unique venue to maximize access to screening. RetiSpec will generate significant market insights to commercialize and implement our solution and support early detection of Alzheimer’s disease in eye care settings. This grant is going to help us take a big step in that direction and we look forward to sharing these learnings with the global community.”
The project team, led by Toronto Memory Program and RetiSpec, will join a global network of 12 grant projects, all part of the DAC Healthcare System Preparedness project, which aims to advance how healthcare systems worldwide detect, diagnose, treat, and care for people with or at risk for Alzheimer’s.
“We are excited to see how Toronto Memory Program and RetiSpec can be part of our efforts to create new pathways to early detection, and look forward to helping to link and scale their successes to our partners around the world,“ said George Vradenburg, founding chairman of the board, Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative, and convener, The Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease.
Toronto Memory Program and RetiSpec will have an opportunity to extend their impact by sharing best practices through DAC Learning Labs, communities of practice events, and other forums, all designed to share learnings and successes and encourage transformative action with healthcare systems around the globe.
RetiSpec is a Toronto-based medical imaging company building advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the detection of neurodegenerative diseases. RetiSpec’s proprietary technology leverages existing retinal imaging camera infrastructure by providing a non-invasive, accurate and more widely available solution for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease than current methods of assessment. RetiSpec is currently involved in multiple Alzheimer’s and brain health studies in leading institutions across the US and Canada. The company is rapidly advancing the regulatory and market entry phases of its first clinically validated test to predict amyloid burden at the point of care, to aid in the evaluation of individuals for Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of cognitive decline. For more information, visit https://www.retispec.ai.
About Toronto Memory Program
Toronto Memory Program is a community-based, specialist-led, medical centre established in 1996 for the purpose of advancing diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Staffed by a multidiscipliniary team of clinicians and trialists, it consists of a state-of-the-art, publicly funded memory clinic and a sophisticated clinical trial site which together provide patients with access to the latest advances in dementia diagnosis and care as well as to cutting edge therapies through participation in a broad range of clinical pharmacological trials. Toronto Memory Program has been a “go to” centre for timely diagnosis and quality care and has been recognized for its excellence in clinical research. Toronto Memory Program is proud to be a site within the Headlands Reseach network. For more information, visit www.torontomemoryprogram.com.
About the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative
Launched at the World Economic Forum’s 2021 meeting on The Davos Agenda, The Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative is a multi-stakeholder partnership committed to aligning stakeholders with a new vision for our collective global response against the challenges Alzheimer’s presents to patients, caregivers and healthcare infrastructures. Convened by The World Economic Forum and The Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease (CEOi) and fueled by a mission of service to the estimated 150 million families and half a billion people inevitably impacted by this disease by 2050, DAC is a collaborative for the benefit of all people, in all places.