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2023 Clifford Paterson Medal and Prize

Dr Alasdair Price and Dr Euan Allen for developing and commercialising a world-leading integrated photonics platform for optical coherence tomography, and designing a personal eye scanner around it to prevent sight loss from age-related macular degeneration.

Awards winners Dr Alasdair Price and Dr Euan Allen

Dr Alasdair Price and Dr Euan Allen have pioneered a revolutionary chip-based optical coherence tomography (OCT) platform as part of Siloton, a startup that they founded in 2020, which leverages integrated photonics to improve the global population’s health. They have progressed the state-of-the-art in integrated photonic systems for OCT, resulting in a chip that has the highest-known proportion of the OCT system fully integrated (~70%, which is sufficient for this to be commercialized at scale). They have also built the first ‘binocular’-style chip-based OCT prototype, undertaking multiple inventive steps to ensure other components in the system do not interfere with chip functionality.

This is the core enabling technology in Siloton’s first product line, which is a personal eye scanner for the 200 million patients with age-related macular degeneration. It will transform ophthalmology by allowing patients to scan themselves at home several times a week, picking up changes in their condition as soon as they occur, allowing for timely and personalised treatments. Patients will keep their sight for longer and the efficiency of healthcare providers will increase, as personal OCT systems will be cheaper and more effective than current solutions, while also relieving pressure on hospitals.

In contrast with many deep-tech startups, Siloton did not spin out of a university, meaning Price and Allen developed their OCT technology from scratch, without access to the facilities that come with developing technology in an academic institution. Their first proof of concept was built for under £20,000 in Allen’s dining room, using a repurposed generic chip that they negotiated for free from a foundry. This provided sufficient evidence of the technology’s potential for Siloton to raise £470,000 investment in March 2022. Since then, Allen has focused more on chip development and Price more on systems design and integration. However, the two sides of the technology are heavily intertwined and both are named inventors on the three inventions that Siloton has submitted patent applications on so far. One is an on-chip component to compensate for natural variation in the distance of patient retinas from the chip itself, another relates to the internal structure of the binoculars to ensure optimal chip performance, and the last is an optical arrangement for imaging both eyes without doubling the number of components or requiring patient intervention.

Multiple customers have expressed interest in Allen and Price’s technology, which is now undergoing refinement to enhance performance and reflect patient feedback.

Images left to right: Dr Alasdair Price and Dr Euan Allen