Highlights from the Floor of ESCRS/EuRetina
The ophthalmology sector last week descended upon Copenhagen, which hosted three sizable clinical meetings including ESCRS, EuRetina, and EuCornea. Several companies used the convergence to roll out products and announce significant news.
OIS favorite AcuFocus opened up with the announcement that it had closed on a $66 million round led by private equity giant KKR. Al Waterhouse, who recently assumed the COO role at the company, told OIS Podcast the financing is good for ophthalmology.
“We are particularly thrilled that as they have been looking to enter ophthalmology for some period of time that they chose us,” Waterhouse said in the interview on the exhibition floor of the Bella Center in Copenhagen. “It’s a real vote of confidence with small aperture technology.”
Waterhouse said the financing enables AcuFocus to accelerate commercial growth while continuing to focus more time on R&D and zero time on fundraising. The former includes the European release of AcuFocus’ IC-8, a small aperture intraocular lens (IOL) that corrects presbyopia in patients with cataracts.
The new lens complements AcuFocus’ Kamra Inlay, which is predominantly targeted at younger presbyopes. Nicholas Tarentino, OD, chief clinical and regulatory officer, says the IC-8 “allows patients who have previously not been good candidates for this technology to have access to it. We’re really excited and think it’s going to be a really important product.”
KKR’s reputation rests mostly outside of health care, but the investment giant has dabbled in life sciences before including taking a sizable piece in a $250 million Series B round raised by Jazz Pharmaceuticals in 2004.
However, over the past two years, the private equity firm has been building a Medtech portfolio, leading rounds in Cohera (surgical tools), Signostics (ultrasound), and Spirox (nasal obstruction.) KKR also holds 80% of Panasonic Healthcare, which purchased the Bayer Diabetes Care business for $1.1 billion in January. The company now is known as Ascensia Diabetes Care.
This is KKR’s first investment in ophthalmology, according to Bill Link, AcuFocus chairman and general partner at Versant Ventures, an earlier investor in the company. Versant participated in the round along with returning investors SV Life Sciences, Sightline Partners, AMV Partners, Carlyle, and Medtronic. The firm previously raised $170 million, according to data company Crunchbase.
Alcon launched the NGenuity 3D Visualization System, as a platform for digitally assisted vitreoretinal surgery (DAVS). Attendees at OIS@ASRS heard directly about the technology from Alcon partner TrueVision. (See the presentation by TrueVision CEO Forrest Fleming.)
Josh Anderson, global product director at Alcon, said the NGenuity system replaces the optics of traditional surgical microscopes with a larger video screen. Surgeons can operate in lower levels of light and get better visualization of the back of the eye.
Anderson told the OIS Podcast Alcon secured FDA approval and CE mark over the past month and intends to roll out in the US, Europe, and Japan, with other market approvals pending.
Finally, Avedro announced ophthalmology veteran Reza Zadno would take over the reins at the company. OIS Podcast literally caught up with the new CEO outside the Avedro booth. In the interview, Zadno laid out both the short-term and long-term vision for Avedro and suggests the company is positioned to be one of his biggest successes yet.