Doctor on a mission to reinvent eye examination wins prestigious award

Moorfields doctor Pearse Keane has won a prestigious National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Clinician Scientist award. The first ophthalmologist in the UK to receive this award.

Pearse  intends  to reinvent the  way eye examinations are currently performed in hospitals  by using a new form of ocular imaging device, called binocular optical coherence tomography (OCT). The NIHR award which is just under one million pounds will fund this research work for the next five years.

Doctor Keane was also recently featured in the “Power List” of The Ophthalmologist magazine; in this worldwide list, he was ranked number four of the “Top 40” ophthalmologists “Under 40”.

Binocular OCT provides extremely high-resolution images of the eye in a completely non-invasive manner. For comparison, this imaging is much greater resolution than CT or MRI scanning, and can be obtained in only a fraction of a second.

Mock-up of a prototype binocular OCT device
Mock-up of a prototype binocular OCT device

The unique design of the device also allows patients to acquire the images from their own eyes without any assistance from a doctor or nurse. The screens on the device are similar to those on a smartphone or tablet computer, allowing a range of information to be displayed to the patient. This means that, in addition to acquiring images of the eye, a binocular OCT device can perform a range of other eye tests. For example, it can be used to measure visual acuity (i.e., the size of letters on a chart that a patient can read), reactions of the pupils to light, or the movements of each eye.

Taken together, these new features of binocular OCT have the potential to make eye examination much quicker and more efficient. In the short-term, binocular OCT devices will greatly reduce the waiting time for patients when they attend appointments in hospital eye clinics. In the longer-term, these devices may allow patients to monitor the condition of their eyes from the comfort of their own home, or from their local GP, pharmacy, or optician.

Explaining the potential of binocular OCT to “reinvent” the eye exam, Pearse said: “It will allow a comprehensive eye examination to be performed in an automated manner and mean that patients with less severe stable eye diseases of the retina can have all their preliminary testing done in one quick session before seeing the doctor for a consultation.”

“Other benefits the device could introduce is the speeding up of patients’ hospital visits with less time spent in the waiting room and more time with the doctor. In the longer term, the device could allow patients to have their chronic eye diseases monitored from their own homes, or from their local GP/pharmacy/opticians.”

The traditional method of eye examination is called slit-lamp biomicroscopy, a technology that is little changed since its invention in 1911. Binocular OCT will reinvent the eye examination for the 21st Century by providing extremely high-resolution imaging of all structures within the eye – from the eyelashes to the lens, to the retina and optic nerve (so-called whole eye” imaging). This will allow consultants to diagnose and monitor eye disease with much greater detail and accuracy than before.

The idea for binocular OCT was first formulated by Dr Alexander Walsh, an ophthalmologist and engineer based in California. Prior to joining Moorfields, Pearse spent a number of years at the Doheny Eye Institute in Los Angeles under the mentorship of Dr Walsh. By the middle of 2015, Dr Walsh’s company, Envision Diagnostics, Inc., will have built a prototype binocular OCT system in Moorfields to begin clinical testing and validation. This device will be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom or Europe.

Over the five-year funding of the NIHR award, Dr Keane will look at each of the diagnostic tests provided by the device to assess their accuracy, reliability, and reproducibility. The initial focus of the clinical testing will be on patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy – the commonest causes of blindness in the UK. Later it is hoped that the device will be used in other areas such as glaucoma and paediatric ophthalmology, and even in the assessment of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

These research studies will be supported by Moorfields consultants Adnan Tufail, Prof David Garway-Heath, principal statistician Catey Bunce and clinical researcher Jennifer Burr.


Notes to editors

NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology was established in April 2007 and awarded a second five-year term by the NIHR from April 2012.  Its purpose is to conduct 'translational research' that is designed to take advances in basic medical research from the laboratory to the clinic, enabling patients to benefit more quickly from new scientific breakthroughs.  Our centre is currently one of 11 biomedical research centres that were awarded in 2012 to NHS/university partnerships with an outstanding international reputation for medical research and expertise, and experience of translating that research into the clinical setting.  For further information, please visit

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the world’s leading eye hospitals, providing expertise in clinical care, research and education.  We have provided excellence in eye care for more than 200 years and we continue to be at the forefront of new breakthroughs and developments.  We are an integral part of one of the UK’s first academic health science centres, UCL Partners, and now we are part of one of the first science health networks. We were one of the first organisations to become an NHS foundation trust in 2004.  For further information, please visit

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is one of a number of specialised research centres within UCL (University College London) and is, together with Moorfields Eye Hospital, one of the leading centres for eye research worldwide. The combination of the Institute’s research resource with the resources of Moorfields Eye Hospital, which has the largest ophthalmic patient population in the Western World, opens the way for advances at the forefront of vision research.  For further information, please visit

About the NIHR The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence, and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website


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