Gyro Gearloose of ophthalmologists
Specialist of Ophthalmology Markku Leinonen from Turku is involved in many activities. In addition to his work as researcher and doctor, he sings in a choir, plays golf and spends time at two different cottages. The reason for his Face of the Month interview is his innovation. The Ocusweep device for vision testing may have potential to become a multi-million business.
Markku Leinonen graduated as a Licentiate of Medicine at the age of 25 in 1982 from the University of Turku. Eight years later he was Specialist of Ophthalmology, and defended his doctoral dissertation in 1996. Measurement of visual acuity and the ability to read are Dr Leinonen’s s specialities, and he has developed new kinds of equipment for those purposes.
It is difficult to measure objectively the reading ability and reading speed of adults. Patented with support from the Foundation for Finnish Inventions and Oy Aboatech Ab, which earlier operated in Turku Science Park, the invention called Reading Navigator is based on 36 words which in turn lean on the average length of word determined using hundreds of thousands of words and clauses. Numerals written in letters have been added among them, and the numerals need to be identified as quickly as possible.
“Reading Navigator was also used in a research project implemented together with the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Kela in which we studied the effect of VDU glasses on working. The results indicated that the reading speed improves by 4–5 per cent with the right kind of glasses. With VDU glasses the depth of field can be made wider at a distance of around 80 centimetres. That will reduce the tension on the neck, because you can move your head without the text being blurred”, Markku Leinonen says.
Movement of the eyes gives the result
Another product developed by Dr Leinonen, Peri-stick, concerns the examination of the field of vision in children.
“The field of vision can be examined by following the reactions of the patient’s eyes on the sticks with blinking lights held by the doctor. The sticks are intended especially for testing the visual acuity of small children, but they will not necessarily tell whether any problems with reactions are caused by defect in visual acuity or brain functions.”
Three years ago, Mauno Kangasaho, Innovation Manager at the University of Turku referred Dr Leinonen to talk to Tapio Järvensivu, Innovation Expert at the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. He directed the inventor to Protomo in Salo. The product was developed further there, and the first prototype was manufactured with funding granted by the Foundation for Finnish Inventions. Katariina Sampinen from Protomo helped with the business plan as well as marketing and sales efforts. Expertise for producing the prototype and the electronics was found close, at Mariachi Oy near Turku Science Park.
“I think we searched for a partner by googling ‘medical device development’ or something like that. The first time we visited Mariachi we spotted a tonometer in the lobby. It gave us assurance that we could implement the product with local players. Soon after we chose Mariachi’s new Kasvattamo concept created in the ArvoBusiness project as our pilot project.”
“Pasi Hatakka, Jukka Järvi-Laturi and myself have pondered everything from the business model to technical solutions. The co-operation seemed excellent from the start, and that’s how it’s been”, Dr Leinonen commends.
Tour de force of branding done in Turku
The system was named Ocusweep, and the development and sales is now handled by Ocuspecto Oy, founded by Dr Leinonen last year. In addition to Ms Sampinen, the company employs CEO Tapio Mäntysalo and Software Designer Harri Kaasalaisen who used to work at Nokia. Two prototypes of the device named Ocusweep have been manufactured. They have attracted a lot of interest among both financiers and ophthalmologists.
“Ocusweep uses local expertise. The plastic parts are supplied by Alphaform RPI in Rusko, the electronics by Mariachi, and it’s been designed by Ari Pöllänen from Desigence which also has an office in Turku.”
The device is due to be launched next year. The plan is to use it at first especially for vision tests for driving licence. One device can objectively combine the measurement of the visual field size, visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and sensitivity to glare. With the device it is also possible to examine the speed of visual processing. The device is easy to use, so the test can be performed by a nurse, and the doctor can focus on examining and analysing the results.
“Because seeing is a brain function, the patient can be referred to further examinations if the results given by the device deviate from normal. That may give early stage indications of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma or cataract”, Dr Leinonen says.
There may be large markets for the well-being technology device in the future. Dr Leinonen and his partners have calculated that in Finland alone health tests for driving a motor vehicle are done in 2,000 different organisations, such as public health centres and private clinics. In the EU the figure may be 100-fold, which means markets of hundreds of millions of euros.
Last spring, Ocuspecto received more and 230,000 euro of capital investments and a loan from Tekes, which allowed for creating the current prototype in record time. It attracted interest among financiers at the MedTech Nordic event in early September. Further financing will be required for the clinical testing of the device and making it ready for production.
Over 30 years in the CCA choir
Outside work, Markku Leinonen is an active founding member of the Chorus Cathedralis Aboensis (CCA) choir. The renowned choir of 80 people is known as a symphonic choir that performs major works together with the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, most recently Verdi’s Requiem in Logomo in August.
“In June we performed the choir parts of Krzysztof Penderecki’s modern and very demanding Polish Requiem at the Naantali Music Festival.”
“Our family has a hereditary disease of singing requiems in the CCA choir, as my mother used to conduct the choir, my brother sings in it, and now my youngest daughter has also joined. Performing a requiem in concert is a wonderful experience, and it’s great to be able to perform with the world’s top artists and conductors”, Dr Leinonen says.
The Leinonens live in Turku city-centre, next to Martinsilta bridge, but they spend nearly all weekends and holidays in Mellilä, in the wife’s childhood home. The grown-up children of the family also like to go there. In the summer the Leinonens also have a small cottage with a sauna on lake Pyhäjärvi in Säkylä.
To keep from getting bored, Markku Leinonen also plays golf in the summer. For the avoidance of doubt, he is not the same Markku Leinonen who visited all golf courses in Finland five years ago. But this Markku did have time for 15 rounds last summer!
• Born in Turku in 1957.
• Licentiate of Medicine 1982, Ophthalmologist 1990, MD 1996.
• Special competence in eye surgery.
• Has invented the Ocusweep device for vision testing; the sales is planned to start next year.
• Lives in Turku, married with three grown-up children.