The past year has witnessed the formation of several collaborations between ophthalmic start-ups and institutions or groups that traditionally haven’t been involved in developing medical technology, such as physician groups, hospitals, and insurance companies.
Over the next two issues of Eye on Innovation, we look at three such partnerships and some of the potential benefits to start-ups when they think outside the box about deciding with whom to partner.
ArcScan and CEDARS/ASPENS
ArcScan Inc., developer of ophthalmic visualization technology, announced in May that it was partnering with CEDARS/ASPENS, a not-for-profit society of anterior segment surgeon educators, to further develop applications for the Insight100, ArcScan’s FDA-approved biometry device. The partnership entails a close collaboration between CEDARS/ASPENS members and ArcScan’s technical, clinical, and management teams.
“In order to succeed, small companies in the medical space must interface with the end user or users of their products – the physician, and ultimately the patient,” says Robert Weinstock, MD, director of cataract and refractive surgery at the Eye Institute of West Florida and executive board member of CEDARS/ASPENS. “ArcScan had the foresight to realize they must engage with surgeons so that their technology is practical, usable, and successful.”
Dr. Weinstock says that incorporating the end user’s perspective in research and development can save time and headaches later.
“Typically, what happens in industry is that talented engineers solve a problem that has been identified, but the technology is developed in something of a bubble,” he explains. “There is a big difference between how something works in the lab and how it works with patients. As a result, medical technology may be over-engineered, or some practical aspect may be missing.”
Innovative start-ups, says Dr. Weinstock, often use an inner circle of clinicians to advise their R&D, but an organization like CEDARS/ASPENS can take that to a new level. For a start-up such as ArcScan, partnering with a group like CEDARS/ASPENS, instead of a larger medtech company, might help avoid the problem of relying too much on a small circle of KOLs.
“As a group of extremely talented, tech-driven surgeons, CEDARS/ASPENS provides access to a broad group of physician advisers: some of the members have more experience on the research side, others on the tech or clinical side,” Dr. Weinstock says. “This saves a lot of time and work because the company doesn’t have to search for individual doctors. It’s a consolidation of intellectual property – a kind of outsourcing to find KOLs.”
This type of model can also mean that a company like ArcScan maintains a greater degree of control over its technology than might be possible otherwise. To Andy Levien, ArcScan CEO, partnerships with groups such as CEDARS/ASPENS are not just helpful but essential.
“With today’s breakneck pace of innovation, we are challenged on multiple fronts: to develop best-in-class core technology; to provide a clear value proposition to doctors and patients that provide better outcomes and safety – and do so faster and more efficiently; and to stay abreast of industry trends that will shape the future of the industry,” says Levien. “As a start-up, it means we must partner to survive. CEDARS/ASPENS brings industry-leading strength in each of these areas. Although it is largely up to ArcScan to develop our own core technology, we rely on this partnership to help us provide the other elements we need to survive and make an impact in the industry.”
Next week, we’ll review two other fascinating partnerships.
Are you aware of any other unconventional partnerships within the ophthalmic space? If so, email your thoughts to Michael@EthisInc.com.