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Dr. Ludwin Monz, president and CEO of Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, shares how his company’s long history in ophthalmology helps it pave a path for new markets and technologies.
Ludwin Monz, PhD
Dr. Ludwin Monz has been President and CEO of Carl Zeiss Meditec AG since 2010 and was appointed a member of the Executive Board of the ZEISS group in 2014. Carl Zeiss Meditec is the medical technology company of the ZEISS group. Monz joined ZEISS in 1994.
Tom Salemi: Hi, everybody, welcome back to the OIS Podcast. This is your host, Tom Salemi, bringing you another installment of the Masters of the Universe. I hope you’ve enjoyed the past few weeks of interviews that we’ve had with some of the leaders of ophthalmology. Today we’re visiting with Dr. Ludwin Monz, who’s the President and CEO of Carl Zeiss Meditec. Zeiss, of course, is a European based entity, but it’s internationally known for so many reasons. It’s got such a wide variety of businesses. But certainly ophthalmology is the biggest piece of it and Zeiss has been a player and a leader of it for over a century. As it came up on the Masters of the Universe panel, Zeiss has been in ophthalmology for 170 years, just beating out Bausch and Lomb, as Cal Roberts had tried to point out on the Masters of the Universe panel that B&L had been in ophthalmology for a very long time. But Zeiss was the winner, and Ludwin Monz told a great story on the Masters of the Universe panel. You can check that out at OIS.net. And of course you can listen to this Podcast, where I had a chance to speak with Dr. Monz one on one at the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans. So we covered a few things in this discussion, including the three elements of Zeiss and what opportunities Zeiss sees in ophthalmology. So I hope you enjoy this conversation with Ludwin Monz of Zeiss.
TS: This is Tom Salemi from OIS TV. Very happy to have Ludwin Monz here. He’s the President and CEO of Carl Zeiss Meditec. Thank you for joining us today.
Ludwin Monz: It’s a pleasure.
TS: And I was happy to have you on the Masters of the Universe panel, and kind of just taking away from those conversations to have a one on one sit down with you folks. Can you tell me a bit about Carl Zeiss? How much of that is ophthalmology? It’s a very large part, correct?
LM: Well, it’s the largest part of Carl Zeiss Meditec. It’s between two-thirds and 70%, so it makes up a majority. And in fact, it’s the part that has grown the most over the last years.
TS: Oh. Is that due to internal efforts to grow that business, or external growth of the industry itself?
LM: Well, we have a different strategic positioning in ophthalmology. So in ophthalmology, we basically try to provide everything needed for diagnosis and treatment. So it’s really a very broad portfolio. We’ve entered new segments which we didn’t have in the past, and that has given us a growth. These segments which I’m talking about in particular are IOLs, right, to cataract. We don’t have them here in the US, but also the US, that’s a very substantial and important part of our business.
TS: And you took charge of the ophthalmics division about ten years ago, right? In 2007?
LM: Yes. We basically structure our company in three parts. We have what we call microsurgery. That is business focused on neurosurgery, ENT surgery, dental, and others. And then we have 2 divisions in ophthalmology; one is basically the diagnostics, and the other is everything on surgical. And within surgical we have refractive and we have our cataract and retina surgery.
TS: How have you seen the ophthalmology sector change over those 9 years since you started leading that group?
LM: Well, the industry certainly has changed. So if you look at the competitive landscape, the largest players now are owned by pharmaceutical companies, which was not the case ten years ago. And at the same time, we’ve seen many small innovation companies come up. So I believe the speed of innovation really has picked up in ophthalmology. So these are the external things that have changed. But look at my company. As I said, our entry of the cataract market really changed weights within Carl Zeiss Meditec, and has made that more important part of our overall business.
TS: How do you look at those smaller companies? Are you acquiring startups? Are you bringing their technology inside? Or do you lean more heavily on internal R&D?
LM: Well, we do both, right? So I believe the sources of innovation are many fold. It really starts at working with surgeons, working with ophthalmologists. They are a great source of innovation. Then of course it’s looking at the very innovative startup companies, at least sometimes very innovative startup companies. That’s another great source. We work with research institutes, universities to really be at the forefront of new technology development. And of course, in house we also have a lot of knowledge and a lot of IP which we can use for further developing our technologies and products.
TS: At an earlier Masters of the Universe session – I think it was last year – you had mentioned that Zeiss has a long history, of course, in medical tech. It’s been around 170 years, is that right, in medtech, 100 years?
LM: Correct, 170 years are all Zeiss has
TS: Is having that history, that legacy, how does that help? And is it ever a hindrance?
LM: Well, first of all it helps because we have an incredible technology base in house. The Zeiss Group not only has a medical business. There are other businesses in very different and various fields. And all this technology is, you know, it’s transparent and available throughout the Zeiss Group. And the medical business really benefits from that technology base. Now with in ophthalmology, the hundred-year history we have has resulted in a long series of really innovative products, first likely the slit lamp, the OCT, the optical biometry. Now more recently, the Smile procedure for refractive surgery. The surgical microscope was invented by Zeiss. So it’s really a long history. And what that has done is not only that within the company we have a lot of application knowledge and expertise in these fields. In the market, it has made Zeiss really well known to everybody in ophthalmology. So it’s a very strong brand. That is something we can really build on.
TS: And within ophthalmology going forward, you mentioned some of the areas you’ve expanded into recently. What other areas of interest are there for Zeiss and in what direction do you see the company going?
TS: Hi, this is Tom here. I want to take a quick break from this conversation with Ludwin Monz to just remind you to go to OIS.net. we have been posting content from the latest OIS@ASCRS up at OIS.net. So if you missed a presentation or, God forbid missed the entire event, you’ll be brought up to date with some of the really terrific presentations and panel discussions that took place at the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans. Now back to this conversation.
LM: Well, within ophthalmology, as I said, we’ve entered cataract. We are not present in cataract globally, so that’s certainly a direction. And furthermore, I believe there’s lots of potential to further improve the product and product categories we’re in today. Tracy on the panel of the conference, we were talking about the premium channel and refractive outcomes. Innovation really can help to improve refractive outcomes of cataract surgery. That’s an important need. And it’s so much the device makers can contribute to making that happen, and Zeiss is here at the forefront. So my expectation is that Zeiss will continue to develop such technologies and drive outcomes in ophthalmology.
TS: And do you see being in Europe as a benefit? So many medical technologies obviously build a strong base there before going to the US and other markets. Does it help to be Europe-centric and to have that base there to sort of have your feet on the ground in those markets where these technologies tend to take off?
LM: Well, first of all, our approach is a global approach.
LM: So we want to be present globally, and we believe that the US of course, it’s the largest single market in the world. So we really need to have and want to have a strong presence here because there so much knowledge, there’s so much out here in the market that helps us to develop these innovations. But it’s just because of the regulatory environment that innovations tend to be released first to the market in Europe. Right? And of course it helps to have a strong presence there, and then we typically start to register our products here with a CE Mark, and then later on apply for FDA approval and come here to the US.
TS: Terrific. Well, thank you for taking some time today to join us and to share your story.
LM: It’s a pleasure.
TS: Well, thank you, Ludwin Monz, for joining us on the OIS Podcast. It was a pleasure to sit down with you at OIS@ASCRS and learn more about Zeiss Meditec and Zeiss plans for ophthalmology. Thank you to our listeners for joining us again on the OIS Podcast. Very happy to bring these interviews directly to you. And don’t forget to go to OIS.net not only for the content that we continue to put up there from OIS@ASCRS, but also to register for OIS@ASRS which will take place prior to the ASRS annual meeting. This is our first OIS there. Go to OIS.net to register for the August 8th event, and we will see you in San Francisco.