CMU New Venture Competition winner reinvents eye healthcare

Ranit Karmakar is revitalizing ocular healthcare through his creation of a life-changing eye disease detection device.

In 2020, the Michigan Technological University (MTU) doctoral student participated in the Central Michigan University (CMU) New Venture Competition (NVC). He won Best Overall Venture Award for $25,000 for his FOCUS (Fast Ocular Check Up System) device, which only requires a mobile phone and a low-cost microscope to gather a 98% accurate analysis for corneal disease.

“I realized this automatic image tool could be useful to doctors who still have to use a lengthy, manual process to identify eye disease,” says Karmakar. “My software is far cheaper and more mobile.”

CMU’s NVC is an extensive entrepreneurship opportunity offering students the chance to pursue a pitch and compete for funding awards. The challenge is currently only open to CMU and MTU students.

“New Venture made me realize how this business would work in real life,” says Karmakar. “I had the chance to prepare a pitch and learn how to create financial documents for my software.”

The competition encompasses 12 workshops to learn start-up skills and prepare to launch a venture. It challenges students to create solutions to real-world issues in a comprehensive business model, says Julie Baker, program manager for NVC.

“It’s two full semesters with different workshop opportunities and support from experienced entrepreneur mentors,” says Baker. “Students in New Venture always say this is the hardest thing they’ve ever done, but the most rewarding.”

Karmakar competed in the virtual 2020 and 2021 New Venture Competitions. Due to the interruption from COVID-19, the 2020 teams were allowed to compete again in 2021.

Karmakar has used the award to pursue further development into corneal disease detection. Due to the exclusive size of the eye banking market (responsible for evaluating and distributing ocular tissue), he hopes to discover a cheaper methodology.

“We recently got accepted into the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps, which will provide us guidance on where to go from here,” says Karmakar. “Future plans will focus on applying for funds and grants to move into prototype development. We’re also in the works to change the company name from FOCUS to Oclo Health.”

For students interested in getting involved in the 2022 NVC, application forms are available on the College of Business website or students can reach out to Julie Messing, NVC’s director, at messi2j@cmich.edu.

“This program is both educational and experiential, and undoubtedly the best opportunity for students trying to launch a business,” says Messing. “We invite anyone to join.”