A 26-year-old Who Nearly Lost Half of His Vision Established a Medical Startup. It Worths Millions Now! Kevin Choi had “no doubt” about the condition of his health as a rifleman in the Republic of Korea Marine Corps who underwent rigorous training as a part of his national service.
“I’ve got quite severe myopia, but I still believed I was very healthy,” Choi said.
But all changed in 2016 when he learned he had glaucoma, an eye condition that is progressive and persistent and is brought on by damage to the optic nerve.
Choi was only 26 when he was given the diagnosis, despite the fact that glaucoma is more typical in older persons.
Choi claimed that by the time this was discovered, he had already lost half of his eyesight in his right eye and only had “60% to 70%” of his vision in his left eye.
But he overcame these challenges in the same year by founding his own healthcare firm, Mediwhale.
According to Mediwhale, its products are the first of their type to employ artificial intelligence and retinal images to measure cardiovascular risk.
Six years ago, he and his ophthalmologist, Dr. Tyler Hyungtaek Rim, established the firm with $5,000 in seed money.
The startup announced today that it has received millions of dollars from investors and that the EU and numerous Asian nations have authorized its gadgets.
How did Choi who nearly lost half of his vision become inspired to find his own business?
A Quicker Selection
Choi, who is Mediwhale’s CEO, said he is a firm believer that his diagnosis is “not a coincidence.”
He began considering potential AI solutions that could improve disease early detection because he is a trained industrial engineer.
“There must be some reason this happened to me. And I think that I could solve this myself, because I’m an engineer,” commented the 31-year-old.
As a physician, Rim was also aware of the “unmet needs” in clinical settings for the screening of cardiovascular illnesses, which is generally carried out using computed tomography scans.
“CT scans require a lot of resources and are time consuming, therefore it is a burden for both health-care providers and patients,” he included.
Choi was inspired to create a quicker option by his own experience with “long patient journeys,” which refers to the time it takes for a patient to receive test results from doctors after getting in line at a hospital.
He said, “Long patient journey is a big hurdle to get past. Even now, I feel very anxious every time I visit the hospital for glaucoma checkups … it’s a long test with a two to three hours wait for results.”
According to Mediwhale, it can detect cardiovascular risk with the “same accuracy” as a CT scan with just one retinal snapshot per eye and can send patient data “within a minute.”
Rim explained, “It takes just a few seconds as it doesn’t require any dilation. The image is simultaneously uploaded to the cloud system upon taking and automatically analyzed by our AI,”.
The main difficulty the creators encountered was persuading other medical professionals that the eyes might truly be “the window to the whole body,” as Choi put it.
“The eyes are the only organs in the body in which you can see blood vessels without any invasive measures,” Rim continued.
According to Rim, “changes in your retina’s microvascular structure… have been identified as strong predictors of blood vessel-related diseases, such as cardiovascular and kidney problems, because the changes frequently take place well before you may even notice certain crucial symptoms.”
According to Choi, publishing studies in two peer-reviewed journals that supported the use of retinal photos as a biomarker provided Mediwhale the boost in legitimacy it required.
According to Mediwhale, seven nations, including the U.K., Korea, and Singapore, as well as the EU, have since approved the use of its technology.
Five hospitals in Arkansas have started clinical investigations utilizing Mediwhale’s retinal scan even though the technology is still seeking FDA approval in the United States, the business stated.
According to Mediwhale, it has raised more than $5 million to date. SBI Investment of Japan and BNK Venture Capital of Korea are among its investors.
Finding your “reason” and purpose, according to Choi, is essential to overcoming obstacles in both life and business.
He claimed that the knowledge that his glaucoma might have been discovered sooner motivates him to continue working toward his goal of preventing more people from discovering illnesses when it’s “too late.”
“Maybe for someone else who is also confident about their health … a simple eye scan could change his life.”
Nevertheless, Choi claimed that the experience has been “humbling” despite the development and prosperity his company has had.
“The health-care business is a very conservative one. Every conversation I have with doctors or experts … is a lesson to be learnt,” “To me, that’s the most important characteristic to have as an entrepreneur.”
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