Yali Jia, Ph.D., developed an algorithm that greatly improved the sensitivity of a highly efficient, non-invasive eye imaging technology called optical coherence tomographic angiography, or OCTA.
For that and other significant contributions, the National Academy of Inventors elected Jia, Jennie P. Weeks Professor of Ophthalmology and associate professor of biomedical engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine and Casey Eye Institute, an NAI Senior Member.
Election as an NAI Senior Member recognizes remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society. Senior Members also have success in patents, licensing, and commercialization, while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors.
The algorithm and optical coherence tomography
An OCT scan shines infrared light into the eye, producing cross-sectional images that can measure thin layers inside the eye. It’s been used since the 1990s to monitor eye health and is particularly important in developing treatment plans for age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic eye diseases — the three leading causes of blindness.
Jia developed the split-spectrum amplitude-decorrelation angiography, or SSADA, algorithm alongside David Huang, M.D., Ph.D., Peterson Professor of Ophthalmology and a professor of biomedical engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine and Casey Eye Institute. Huang co-invented OCTA’s precursor, optical coherence tomography, or OCT.
The SSADA algorithm greatly improved the sensitivity of amplitude-based flow detection and became the basis of the first commercialized clinical OCTA system.
SSADA made it possible for OCTA to become practical for eye physicians to use in the clinic. Before SSADA, OCTA was considered a technology for research only. Jia’s original paper on SSADA, published in 2012 by Optics Express, has been cited 900 times.
Among the prestigious awards recognizing Jia’s work is the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology 2019 ARVO Pfizer Ophthalmics Carl Camras Translational Research Award. The award recognizes exceptional eye researchers who are 45 years old or younger and whose scientific discoveries are being or will soon be used by eye care physicians or their patients.
Jia published some of the initial reports on the application of OCTA technology to imaging diabetic retinopathy (DR). She developed quantitative OCTA for detecting neovascularization and capillary dropout in retinal vascular diseases and glaucoma. This work ignited a rapidly growing field of study.
“Because OCT angiography is faster, better, safer and less expensive, the technique is expected to vastly improve disease monitoring and treatment,” said Arvin Paranjpe, senior technology development manager for OHSU Technology Transfer. “This new imaging technology better informs the management and treatment of eye diseases, helping preserve vision in potentially hundreds of thousands of people.”
All told, Jia has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles with over 6,000 citations. Further, she is an inventor on 12 issued patents and 10 pending patent applications, eight of which have been licensed to industry.
Jia also helped develop an ultra-sensitive optical microangiography algorithm called OMAG, which is considered an alternative to SSADA. Jia contributed to that algorithm’s development while working in the OHSU bioengineering lab of Ruikang Wang, Ph.D., who is now at the University of Washington.
Jia earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from OHSU in 2010 under Wang’s guidance. She completed post-doctoral training in 2013 with Huang. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and has co-edited three books.
OHSU’s Technology Transfer and Business Development recognized Jia as a 2018 New Inventor of the Year.