CorneaGen Aims to End Corneal Blindness
CorneaGen’s approach to treating corneal blindness is to prevent it from ever occurring, said Monty Montoya, president and CEO, who added no other organization has studied the whole cornea ecosystem quite as intricately as CorneaGen. Wall Street seems to agree — the company recently completed $37 million in Series B funding, led by Flying L Partners, which collaborated with Falcon Vision, a platform formed by KKR to advance innovation in ophthalmology. Petrichor Healthcare Capital Management also had a significant role in the current equity round, providing a $25 million credit facility to provide additional growth to fund CorneaGen’s global expansion, Mr. Montoya said.
One promising development from the company is its Cornea Cell Therapy, which includes the culturing of human eye endothelial cells and injecting them into a cornea-blind patient’s anterior chamber. These injected cells have been shown to restore sight within a month and do away with the need for corneal transplantation. CorneaGen plans on seeking regulatory approval first in Japan and then in the U.S. (The company already offers Nano-Thin Tissue for Descemet’s stripping endothelial keratoplasty [DSEK] and the Pre-Loaded Geuder Glass Cannula for Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty [DMEK].)
“Our Cornea Cell Therapy will resolve up to 50% of corneal blindness around the world in the next 10 years,” Mr. Montoya said. “One donated human cornea yields Cornea Cell Therapy treatments for 100 or more patients. The treatment will especially help areas where access to donor tissue is limited.” CorneaGen hopes to eliminate corneal blindness worldwide by 2040.
In initial clinical trial results from three phases completed in Japan, all patients reported clear corneas after the procedure, according to CorneaGen. Up to 4 and 5 years post-procedure, all of these patients continue to have healthy, clear corneas.
“CorneaGen is dedicating significant resources to finding new ways to prevent and treat corneal blindness that can be scaled to reach people around the world,” said Bill Link, managing partner of Flying L Partners, in a press release from CorneaGen. “Advances and innovation in corneal treatments up until now have been limited due to the fragmentation of the global market. We see this important, underserved market as an opportunity for CorneaGen.”
Financially, the company seems solid: CorneaGen’s revenue has a compound annual growth rate of 22.9% each year. Revenue was $45 million in 2017 and increased to $52.5 million in 2018. The company’s forecasted revenue for 2019 is $67.9 million. Cornea Gen also has seen a 15.3% compound annual growth rate in the number of tissues placed for treatment, growing from 14,296 in 2017 to 14,430 in 2018 but then skyrocketing to a projected 19,000 for 2019. CorneaGen also recently acquired the domestic eye bank operations of KeraLink International and now provides approximately 25 percent of domestic donor corneas for transplant surgeries.
Beyond its cornea care services and therapies, other innovations touted by CorneaGen include its Ampho B in Corneal Storage Media with a new concentration and its newly optimized Geuder Pre-Loaded Glass Cannula.
The concentration for Ampho B increased from 0.255 micrograms/ml to 2.50 micrograms/ml. The 2.50 micrograms/ml dosing lowers Candida concentration by more than 90% without endangering cell health and without damaging the endothelium, according to the company.
The newly optimized cannula is pre-loaded, pre-punched, stained, and marked. It has an ergonomic cartridge that allows easy removal of the cannula, simplifying DMEK and saving time in the OR.
Other corneal products from CorneaGen include the Geuder Glass Cannula for DMEK, the Donor Trephine Punch, EndoSerter Corneal Endothelium Delivery Instrument, and Recipient Vacuum Trephine.
On the refractive side, CorneaGen makes Intacs designed to lower or eliminate myopia and astigmatism in keratoconic patients; and the KAMRA inlay for presbyopic patients.
CorneaGen also delivers high-quality corneal tissue, provides surgeon education via DMEK wet labs and webinars, and advocates for patient access to care, the company says.
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