Local innovator gets a boost

2019-10-22 06:00
Dr Daemon McClunan who founded OptiShunt.

Dr Daemon McClunan who founded OptiShunt.

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Founder of Woodstock-based Liquid Medical, Dr Daemon McClunan received a R1.3 million reward to boost the marketing and clinical trial stages of his innovative OptiShunt design.

He was among the 20 finalists at the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards 2019 held in Johannesburg on Wednesday 9 October. Of the 20, six finalists were from the Western Cape. He shared the first place with Chad Robertson from Parklands who invented Regenize, a free recycling service with a rewards system.

The disability empowerment awards acknowledge and promote social innovations that improve the quality of life for people with disabilities through assistive devices, training or employment.

Bridgit Evans, SAB Foundation director, says to date, the foundation has spent over R77 million towards promoting social innovation and has supported 162 businesses that solve social issues and provide solutions to people with disabilities. “Over and above this we are proud that these businesses have also created 614 jobs,” says Evans.

McClunan’s OptiShunt is an implantable device that prevents blindness caused by glaucoma by draining excess fluid out of the eye while equalising pressure between the eye and the optic nerve.

For him, the fund is a reward for the hard work that started in 2015. Daemon says he came up with the idea of establishing a solution to blindness in 2013 to help glaucoma patients. Over the years, he worked with different experts, researching and putting the project together. He says the journey had been difficult, with a lot of work needing to be done.

“But I learned new skills and built networks even beyond my line of work, it’s been a difficult but interesting journey. This is a huge and much-needed reward for me,” he says.

Daemon says the device is currently in the trial stage and will take a couple of years to be available on market. He says even though it has undergone tests and has proven to be effective, it still needs to be finalised and certified before reaching the counters.

Upon completion, Daemon says the device will be available in two versions at effective costs. A low version will cost about R10 000 while the advanced version would go up to R20 000. He says he aimed to offer people affected by glaucoma a long-time solution, with the potential of improving their well-being.

Explaining how OptiShunt differs from other existing blindness treatments, he says the device can successfully prevent blindness, meaning the patients would be unlikely to have to repeat the treatment for the condition.

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