Business

Coralville based IDx LLC aims to change health care delivery

'We may be the most talked-about privately held technology company in the state'

Ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Abramoff started IDx LLC to further develop the scientific research that would allow autonomous AI systems to reach patients effectively and safely. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Abramoff started IDx LLC to further develop the scientific research that would allow autonomous AI systems to reach patients effectively and safely. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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Calls from potential investors, contract negotiations with major health care systems and tweet-outs from White House staff are just a few of the things occupying Coralville-based IDx LLC these days.

With a product that could change the way that health care is delivered, IDx is in an enviable position.

“We may be the most talked-about privately held technology company in the state of Iowa,” said Gary Seamans, chairman and CEO.

In April, IDx received first-ever approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an autonomous device that uses artificial intelligence to diagnose diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes complication that can cause blindness without early detection and treatment.

In June, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics became the first health care provider to employ the new technology, called IDx-DR.

Because it does not require a physician to interpret the results, IDx-DR represents an exciting advancement in the field of health care, opening the doors to other technology that could improve the accessibility and affordability of health care.

It’s also helped put Iowa on the map along with such technology hubs as Silicon Valley, Research Triangle in North Carolina and Boston, Seamans said.

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“We actually have done something quite unusual, which is a major technological breakthrough in the Midwest,” he said. “We’re opening so many eyes about how special Iowa is and the people here.”

IDx was founded in 2010 by Dr. Michael Abramoff, a retina specialist with the University of Iowa’s ophthalmology department.

He had envisioned the technology years earlier as a practicing ophthalmologist in the Netherlands, where he saw a lack of timely screening for diabetic retinopathy,

He started IDx to further develop the scientific research that would allow autonomous artificial intelligence systems to reach patients safely and effectively.

Seamans joined the company in late 2011.

With angel investor backing, the company completed a pivotal clinical study in 2017 and applied for FDA clearance.

The FDA’s announcement in April that IDx-DR was cleared for use in clinical settings was met with an overwhelming response.

“We were tsunamied by the nation’s and the world’s medical, media and investing communities,” Seamans said. “Everyone wants to join the party.”

With a second large health care system expected to launch the new technology by the end of the summer, the company is now in the midst of a rapid expansion to manage distribution of IDx-DR on a national level.

Over the past year, it has doubled its staff and moved to a new office location, which it quickly is outgrowing.

“We’re building out systems and approaches on a daily basis,” Seamans said. “It’s growth every day.”

While the Corridor’s unemployment rate of around two percent may be bad news for a company that plans eventually to grow its workforce from 35 to 165, the national and global coverage has helped IDx attract premium talent, Seamans said.

“We are drawing people from around the United States, but a significant majority are in this area,” he noted. “The local area has some incredible talent.”

Positions for which the company is hiring include software developers and engineers, account executives and sales operations specialists.

In addition to IDx-DR, the company has a number of other products in the early prototype stage.

In the future, the autonomous diagnostic technology may be used to detect macular degeneration, glaucoma or even a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer’s.

Each day more of the company’s unknowns are becoming knowns, Seamans said, which has created a high sense of excitement around IDx’s offices.

“Basically every day some challenge comes up,” he said. “That’s the exciting part.”

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l Businesses chosen to be featured in “A Day in the Life” were from those nominated for this year’s Gazette Business Awards. For information on the Oct. 30 banquet, go to TheGazette.com/2018BusinessAwards.

At a glance

• Business: IDx LLC

• Address: 2300 Oakdale Blvd., Coralville

• Website: www.eyediagnosis.net

• Chief officer: Gary Seamans

• Number of employees: 35

• Years in operation: 8

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