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Google Colab with Lions Eye Institute

A collaboration between the Lions Eye Institute and Google will research artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that have the potential to make screening for diabetic retinopathy more accessible.

This is Google’s first Automated Retinal Disease Assessment Software (ARDA) research initiative in Australia.

In a Google blog,1 Associate Professor Angus Turner, Director of Lions Outback Vision at the Lions Eye Institute said as part of the partnership, a study was conducted to validate the performance of Google’s AI model to detect diabetic retinopathy within an Indigenous population in Western Australia.

The retrospective study was based on anonymised data and was conducted in partnership with Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service.

The paper was recently published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.2 It compared the performance of a deep learning system (DLS) against a retinal specialist for the detection of more-than-mild DR, vision-threatening DR and all-cause referable DR.

through a new collaboration with Google, we’re researching AI solutions to make screening more accessible and efficient

The study concluded that the machine learning model performs on-par with a retinal specialist.

The DLS showed improved sensitivity and similar specificity compared with a retina specialist for DR detection, demonstrating its potential to support DR screening among Indigenous Australians, an underserved population with a high burden of diabetic eye disease.

Detecting Diabetic Retinopathy Earlier

In his article, Dr Turner said “diabetic-induced vision loss is 14 times more common in Indigenous people than non-Indigenous, and diabetes itself is three to five times more common across all age bands in the Indigenous population”.

“With early detection and treatment, blindness can be prevented. Unfortunately, this illness can go undetected if patients do not undergo screening. This is a growing health concern for our nation, particularly as access to doctors and healthcare services can be limited in rural and remote areas.

“For 13 years, Lions Outback Vision… has been dedicated to finding ways to bridge this equity gap. And through a new collaboration with Google, we’re researching AI solutions to make screening more accessible and efficient, so we can detect eye disease earlier on in the patient journey.

“Validating the model across diverse patient populations is critical to determine the role and potential of this technology in a clinical setting and can help to reduce racial bias in AI models,” Associate Professor Turner wrote.

“Around the world, Google’s CE-marked AI system is already assisting clinicians and community health workers screen for diabetic retinopathy and is deployed in India and Thailand.

He said Lions Outback Vision and Lions Eye Institute were proud to be involved in Google’s first ARDA research initiative in Australia.

“It’s a small but important step forward in our effort to improve retinopathy screening for Indigenous Australians,” he wrote.



  1. Turner, A. An eye to the future: How AI could help to improve detection of eye disease in Australian communities, Australia Blog available at blog.google/intl/en-au/company-news/technology/AI-diabetic-retinopathy-screening/ [accessed 14 March 23].
  2. Chia, M.A. Hersch, F, Sayres, R., et al., Validation of a deep learing system for the detection of diabetic retinopathy in Indigenous Australians, British Journal of Ophthalmology Published Online First: 06 February 2023. doi: 10.1136/bjo-2022-322237.