plano® is the first spin-off from the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI)-Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) Ophthalmic Technologies Incubator Programme

12 September 2017, Singapore – The miniaturisation and proliferation of technology, coupled with the convenience of mobile applications and "on-the-go" information, has led to a higher dependency on smart devices. Increased smart device use means that more time is spent sitting, and less time is spent engaging in physical and outdoor activities. This could lead, even in the short term, to habits that are detrimental to general and eye health. Excessive device use can result in ocular symptoms, and increase risk factors associated with myopia, such as (i) time spent on near work, (ii) distance of device held from one’s eyes[1] , (iii) childhood obesity, and (iv) the formation of bad body posture[2].

To better manage this phenomenon, plano® was created to revolutionize the way smart devices (phones and tablets) are used.  plano® was created to minimize the potential adverse outcomes that may result from the inappropriate device use and incorporates an innovative screening tool for myopia, which can assist in early detection for decreased vision in children and provide users (parents and children) with easy to read reports to assist in improving device use behaviour.  plano®’s analysis of big data can be used for early detection and prevention strategies, resource allocation and refining intervention measures to ultimately improve paediatric eye health in Singapore and beyond.

plano® sets ‘eyes’ on managing Smart Device Usage

Fresh out of the SERI-SNEC Ophthalmic Technologies Incubator programme and co-funded by the National Health Innovation Centre Singapore, plano® is a parental management app and myopia screening tool which encourages healthy and safe smart device use in children.

Primarily targeted at parents, plano® can be used to keep track of a child’s smart devices use and usage habits. Parents can monitor the frequency and duration of time spent on the devices, the apps their children are using, and the distance at which they hold the device. plano® also captures important eye related data, such as utilization of optometry care and onset of myopia, and recommends eye tests using a validated framework for eye testing frequency in children. Parents can choose to receive weekly reports on their children’s device use, and can also subscribe for recommendations for better management. 

plano® founder and CEO, Dr Mo Dirani shared, “We have seen the age of the users decrease as we become more dependent on these devices in our everyday lives.  This does not need to be a problem, but it is a trend we must be mindful of. plano® is a ‘smart solution’ to better manage device usage behaviour. We believe many populations around the world will find this app useful, especially in a country like Singapore, which has both high myopia levels and high levels of smart device use amongst children.”

Launched first in Singapore, the plano® app can be downloaded for free on the iTunes App Store and on the Google Play Store. While plano® is currently available in English, there are plans to launch the app in Asia in local languages within the next two years.

Please refer to Annex A for the key features of the plano® app and Annex B for Dr. Mo Dirani’s profile.

First project to be unveiled by the SERI-SNEC Ophthalmic Technologies IncubatorProgramme

The SERI-SNEC Ophthalmic Technologies Incubator programme was first introduced in 2013. The programme is dedicated to supporting and nurturing highly promising ophthalmic R&D projects, accelerating them towards commercialisation and medical deployment via creating start-up companies, such as plano®. Members of the SERI technology development and commercialization team worked closely with the plano® project team, providing support in areas including regulatory, Intellectual Property (IP), market research, business planning and financial modelling and more.

On this basis, the project attracted additional translational funding from the National Health Innovation Centre Singapore to expand the scope of the development that could be undertaken.

The development of the plano® app is the third project that was supported by this programme, and its first successful spin-off.

Executive Director of SERI, Professor Aung Tin said, "plano® is an exciting spin-off company and is testament to the benefits of collaborative R&D that we hope will ultimately lead to better eye health for Singapore and beyond. This – along with our hopes to enable entrepreneurs and create a more vibrant, competitive medical research and technology ecosystem – are the key reasons why the Ophthalmic Technologies Incubator was set up.  We hope such collaborations will firmly place Singapore on the map of entrepreneurial medical technology development.”

More on the SERI-SNEC Ophthalmic Technologies Incubator

Through the Ophthalmic Technologies Incubator, SERI and SNEC are supporting researchers and entrepreneurs in their journey to develop diverse medical technologies, including therapeutics, devices, diagnostics and software. As global leaders in clinical practice and eye research, both SNEC and SERI strongly support the efficient and robust development of promising technologies towards commercialization via a string of start-up companies. Such initiatives will help position Singapore as a centre for entrepreneurial medical technology development and ultimately contribute to enhanced treatments for patients in the country and globally.

The operation of the Incubator is one of the main activities of the SERI technology development and commercialization (TD&C) team. It does however have a much wider role as a one-stop support resource for all SERI and SNEC staff involved in development of technologies which hold potential commercial promise. The TD&C team is focused in their goal to drive the development of budding technologies, support the commercial development of current research collaborations with industry and actively promote such collaborations with new partners.

To date, SERI and SNEC have filed over 122 patent applications, concluded over 20 licenses with industry, forged numerous early and late stage collaborations with industrial partners (including a recent $37M co-development collaboration with Santen Pharmaceutical of Japan) and spun off three companies, of which plano® is the latest.

For more information on plano®, please contact Dr. Mo Dirani at mo.dirani@plano.co or visithttp://plano.co.

For more information on the SERI-SNEC Ophthalmic Technologies Incubator and the institutes’ industrial collaborations, please contact fang.xiaoqin@seri.com.sg or visitwww.seri.com.sg.

About plano®
Founded in 2017, plano® is committed to ensuring healthy and safe device use in children worldwide. Through a mix of innovative parental management tools, plano® has the potential to make major contributions to paediatric health and well-being and ultimately become a leader in smart digital solutions.

plano® is a privately held company headquartered in Singapore. For more information, visithttp://plano.co.

About Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC)
Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) was incorporated in 1989 and commenced operations in 1990. It is the designated national centre within the public-sector healthcare network, and spearheads and coordinates the provision of specialised ophthalmological services with emphasis on quality education and research. Since its opening in 1990, SNEC has achieved rapid growth and currently manages an annual workload of 300,000 outpatient visits, 35,000 major eye surgeries and laser procedures.

Subspecialties in Cataract, Corneal and External Eye Disease, General Cataract and Comprehensive Ophthalmology,  Glaucoma, Neuro-Ophthalmology, Oculoplastic, Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Refractive Surgery, Ocular Inflammation and Immunology, Medical Retina and Surgical Retina have been established to provide a full range of eye treatment from comprehensive to tertiary levels for the entire spectrum of eye conditions.
For more information about SNEC, visit https://www.snec.com.sg.

About Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI)
Established in 1997, SERI is Singapore’s national research institute for ophthalmic and vision research. SERI’s mission is to conduct high impact eye research with the aim to prevent blindness, low vision and major eye diseases common to Singaporeans and Asians. SERI has grown from a founding team of five in 1997 to a faculty of 226, encompassing clinician scientists, scientists, research fellows, PhD students and support staff. This makes SERI one of the largest research institutes in Singapore and the largest eye research institute in Asia-Pacific. In addition, SERI has over 100 adjunct faculties from various eye departments, biomedical institutes and tertiary centres in Singapore. SERI has amassed an impressive array of more than 2880 publications, scientific papers as of May 2017, and has secured more than $265 million in external peer-reviewed competitive grants. To date (as of May 2017), SERI’s faculty has been awarded more than 419 national and international prizes and filed more than 122 patents. Serving as the research institute of the Singapore National Eye Centre and affiliated to the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, SERI undertakes vision research in collaboration with local clinical ophthalmic centres and biomedical research institutions, as well as major eye centres and research institutes throughout the world.

For more information about SERI, visit http://www.seri.com.sg.

About National Health Innovation Centre Singapore
The National Health Innovation Centre Singapore (NHIC) was established in 2014 to accelerate the translation of healthcare innovations arising from the publicly-funded clinical research sector in Singapore. Through its project funding and strategic guidance, NHIC supports the development of innovative technologies towards commercially attractive products.

For more information about NHIC, visit: www.nhic.sg.

Annex A: Key Features of plano®

Key Functions of plano®
• To control the amount of time spent on the smart device, the user is able to Schedule “No-Device” times during time set aside for homework and meals.
• The app prompts users to take breaks via Smart Reminders after long periods of smart device usage.
• The app sends users Alerts for Eye Tests to encourage regular check-ups.
• Parents can keep an eye on their children’s smart device behaviour by reviewing the Regular Reports sent to them via the app.
• Good device use will result in the award of points via plano® Reward System, which they can use to redeem prizes on the app, such as In-App Games and discounts on items in the plano®E-Commerce Shop.

Annex B: Biography of Dr Mo Dirani

Dr Mo Dirani is a senior researcher and entrepreneur. He is an internationally renowned researcher, known for his public health research into myopia and other common eye conditions.  He has led several population based studies into the prevalence and causes of eye disease in children and adult populations, both in Singapore and Australia.

Dr Dirani completed his PhD at the age of 26, after producing the world’s largest twin study on myopia. He then undertook a one-year post-doctoral appointment at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2008. Since then he has excelled in his research career, with his latest appointment as Head of Health Services and Evaluative Research at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA). More recently, he completed his MBA at the Australian Institute of Business (AIB) and graduated as a Board Director from the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

Dr Dirani has published over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts published in prestigious ophthalmology journals, contributed to several government commissioned reports, and has had an estimated 200 media stories published on his work. He has also been an invited speaker at many local and international eye conferences.  Dr Dirani is making the permanent move to Singapore and is very excited to get amongst local entrepreneurs and key stakeholders to ultimately translate his research into high impact solutions.  When not working, he enjoys running, yoga and training in martial arts. His latest feat (2015-2016) saw him run 10 full marathons in memory of his father.
[1] P. Vate-U-Lan, “Text neck epidemic: a growing problem for smart phone users in Thailand,” The Twelfth International Conference on eLearning for Knowledge-Based Society, 2015.
[2] J. Park, J. Kim, J. Kim, K. Kim, N. Kim, I. Choi, et al., "The effects of heavy smartphone use on the cervical angle, pain threshold of neck muscles and depression," 2015.