What Will Carl Zeiss Meditec’s New Ophthalmology Unit Look Like? We Ask Jim Mazzo.

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Meet the newest Master of the Industry. Jim Mazzo, who has led divisions, spin-outs, and start-ups, now leads what looks to be a new leader in ophthalmology. Hear how Mazzo views this new opportunity for Zeiss and himself.

Podcast Guest

James Mazzo

Jim Mazzo

Jim Mazzo is the Executive Chairman and CEO for AcuFocus. AcuFocus specializes in presbyopia correction and is known for its revolutionary KAMRA inlay which was recently FDA approved. Mr. Mazzo is also the Executive Chairman for Neurotech Pharmaceuticals is a biotechnology company developing sight-saving therapies for retinal diseases.

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Tom Salemi: Well, Jim Mazzo, welcome to the Podcast.

Jim Mazzo: Well, thank you, Tom. It’s great to get a chance to talk to you. It’s been just a couple months since I think we talked, since the last OIS. So how are you?

TS: I’m doing great and looking forward to OIS@ASRS next week. And you’ll be leading our Masters of the Industry panel, correct?

JM: Yes, I will. I always love those sessions. We’re going to have some fun with it.

TS: Will you be wearing two hats now, both as moderator and now as a Master himself? Are you going to ask yourself the same tough questions you ask everyone else?

JM: Well, I think this could be – that’s an interesting one. We were talking about that. I’m going to keep the old hat here, since I’ve already got the team in place. In fact, Ludwin will be on the dais, but we’ll see going forward how we handle that. Maybe I have to move from moderator to be one of the corps of individuals sitting on the panel. But it’s been fun. I’ll continue to do it, and I’ll always stay participating in a way. I absolutely love that function, and as you know, it’s a great industry as well as practitioner grouping for us.

TS: We always appreciate your support. And I’m guessing that after your panel at OIS@ASRS, that Ludwin just was so impressed by your moderation of the panel that he came up and offered you this job right then and there. Is that how it came down?

JM: Well, actually, Michael Kaschke, who’s the chairman and CEO, that’s who I work with now, and that’s who I spent most of my time around this. Michael and I have known each other for years, and we’ve just kept a very cordial and open relationship, and then of course have built a relationship with Ludwin over the past year or two. But Michael and I started this discussion, not me joining, but just started the discussion about what’s happening in the industry once I left Abbott. And so we’ve been talking. And then as AcuFocus has continued to progress, Michael and I had little more serious discussions. And this really just came to fruition in the last couple months, where we both decided that maybe this is a good time for myself. I needed some things changed at Zeiss. As you know, they put it all under one direction. And so we agreed that this could be hopefully a strong combination between myself and the group, and I’m looking forward to it.

TS: That’s great. Well, give me an assessment of Zeiss’ inventory in ophthalmology now. What are you working with?

JM: So I have responsibility for the whole ophthalmology and optometry business on a worldwide basis. So that obviously includes their tremendous diagnostics equipment, their refractive components, the Smile procedure, etc., and the cataract franchise, which is the intraocular lenses. So full laser, full diagnostic portfolio, CALLISTO, full IOL range. Obviously we have some gaps, but if you look at it across the board, Zeiss by far has the broadest breadth and depth of any product line in ophthalmology.

TS: So where do you go from there? You do have a broad offering now. How now does this company look different in 3 or 4 years under – this division, how does it look different in 3 or 4 years under Jim Mazzo?

JM: Well, I think first off, you know me, you’ve known me now for a while. I would sit there and say, you know, there’s no hierarchical organization here. One guy can’t make any difference, nor should he or she be able to. We’re going to flip the organization a bit and make sure the customer is at the top. I think that’s one. Zeiss, let’s start with the strength. That’s really why I joined and why I don’t think there’s any need for a change. One hundred and fifty-year history, strong stability, strong stability going forward. And as you know, Tom, in our industry today, I don’t think many companies can talk about stability. There’s a lot of change. It’s been the most change I’ve ever seen. So we’ve got a stable group. Broad product portfolio. And one of the things I think is a really important component is that – and this is something that I want to spend more time on – having the broadest capabilities in diagnostics actually allows us to be more of a partner with the physician than anybody else. If you talk to doctors, and to answer your question about where we need to be, doctors today have clearly communicated that they obviously need the technology, but they require to be more efficient. They have to be more efficient. In order to be more efficient, you need products that allow the doctor to diagnose what the patient’s problem is. So when they walk in the door, they can identify it, diagnose it, and then treat it. If they don’t have the proper diagnostic tools in their armamentarium, they’re not guessing, but they’re not really hitting the mark on the results to the patient, and thus you might have to have a repeat visit, etc., etc. So I think what I want to do is accelerate that diagnostic portfolio even more so, help the doctors become more proficient on a global basis at identifying what the issues are. I think the other one is Zeiss is extremely strong, but we have been a bit slow. I’m not going to sit there and say that it’s the fastest organization. I think we need to be quicker speed to market on products, quicker to react to practitioners’ needs, and then insuring that they’re seen as a partner. And then I would say that you’re going to see more breadth and depth. We’re a device company. I think we’ll stay in a device company. But retina, glaucoma, dry eye, presbyopia, the four that I have said are going to be the greatest concentration of efforts in ophthalmology and optometry over the next 5 to 10 years, that’s where we’re going to continue to spend our time. We’re in all those today in either diagnostic or actual implementation techniques. But we’re going to spend more time and energy there and improve our breadth and depth, either through R&D and/or acquisition. So faster, more diagnostic operations to help facilitate quicker from a standpoint of bringing products to market, and then obviously moving ourselves to trying to get to a clear number one position in ophthalmology.

TS: And we’re going to have Zeiss on the panel next week, one of our panels about innovation and retinal imaging. Diagnostics, does it go beyond imaging? I mean are we getting to a point where you’re talking about sort of precision type medicine, as you’re seeing in other specialties? Or is this still very much imaging, seeing the eye just better than you could before?

JM: Well, I don’t think it’s an either-or. If you look at our biometry, you look at what Zeiss has accomplished, if we can improve the imaging capabilities, it gives the doctors more confidence. But I think we do need to expand to more to where we’re actually diagnosing the problem on a much more proactive measurement. So think it’s not an either-or; I think it’s a combination of. We’ve got to identify the issue that the patient has. Now I was talking to a physician, and he said to me, you know, Jim, he said, I see 30 patients in a day. I’ve got to get to 35 to 40. That’s what I have to be at because I can’t continue to run this operation at 30. Well, the only way to get to 35 and 40 – I don’t think we’re adding any more hours to the day – the only way to get to there is to make them more proficient in the office. Doctor still has to see the patient. You can’t mend off the patients too much. So can we improve their proactive diagnostics? I mean Tom, look at dry eye. We’re still guessing with dry eye today, 2016. We’re still guessing. We have some decent diagnostics, but not very good diagnostics. They’re OK. They’re better than they were. I give a lot of credit. But we can get much better there. Retina. Physicians are still don’t have the therapies, yet they still don’t have overall the best diagnostics. We have some great diagnostic instrumentation. So we can get better. The runway for this company and this industry is huge.

TS: And does that push to the better diagnostics? Does that naturally lead to building on the therapeutics that will then treat the diseases you’re diagnosing? Is that the pathway?

JM: Well, the answer is for us, whatever helps the patient, yes. Now does that mean we’re going to get into therapeutics? I’m not going to sit here and tell you that that’s probably the mission in the next 3 years. I think it’s still to broaden our medical device portfolio. That’s the mission. But if it allows a physician to be better and help him or her in prescription therapy, sure. That’s our goal, too. We’re not trying to be selfish and only move in the therapies that we have. But we need to diagnose these issues better. We’ve got to make the doctor more efficient. We have to be proactive on what the patients’ needs are. It’s a requirement today on a global basis.

TS: And I sort of misspoke with my question. Therapeutics and devices as well. As you get better therapeutics at diagnosing disease, you look for devices in that space that could of course treat that disease. That would be the natural pathway.

JM: Yes. Exactly. Yes. The answer is yes, most definitely. And we have some of those today.

TS: Sure.

JM: But we can get better. And again, as I said, we’ll always try to do this through R&D efforts, but potentially we’ll look at business development too. I’m very lucky to join an organization that has history and has a foundation. It’s got a strong financial background. Part of it, the Zeiss company is also a foundation. The Meditec business, the medical device business is a public entity. So we’ve got a great ability to go out and acquire where we feel we need to.

TS: That physician you cited earlier, 35, 40 patients a day, is that specifically what that physician, him or her, had to see?

JM: That’s what he said to me. And for some that might be high; for some that might be low for others. It’s what – the point being is that’s a business practice, 35.

TS: Yeah.

JM: And if he’s got to get to 40, he can only run so fast. And what you don’t want to do is jeopardize the 35 or the 40 by him or her only being able to see them for a couple minutes. So by proper diagnostic tools with the team in the office, when that doctor walks in, he’s got pretty well a pretty good answer of what he’s identifying so that he can proactively already, in his mind, start to think of a therapeutic ability to handle their issues. But efficiency is the critical need. I think about femtosecond. Why are femtosecond lasers really not gravitated as much as everybody thought? Great technology, great idea, precision, capsulorhexis, potential to break up the lens, all the positiveness. Put away the capital expenditure to the side, every practice will decide if they can afford things. But if you can afford things that make you better, people figure out a way. But what’s it done? It hasn’t accelerated the doctor. In fact, in some cases, it’s slowed them down. So can we get femtosecond laser technology to be more efficient? I think the answer is yes. So those are the type of things we need to get to, where we use the technology, but we cannot take a step backwards by making them less effective and not being able to see the same amount of patients or more.

TS: Interesting. Where does the innovation come from? I’m assuming it’s a combination of both outside and inside. But is there one area that might see an increase of resources from Zeiss? Buying new companies, buying outside companies, or really bulking up the R&D internally?

JM: You know, it’s too early for me. It’s 48 hours today. And so I haven’t even been – so I really don’t have the full breadth. I’ve just started to analyze the R&D portfolio, and I’m going to be in Germany in a couple weeks to do a full-blown analysis. So the answer is it’s far too early. But I do know we have gaps. I do know that if we don’t have internal projects, we’re going to go after external. But there isn’t a company today that doesn’t have gaps. Every company has gaps. We just want to make sure we’re making the right bet. But my point is we want to always go through R&D. That’s the best way to do it. But we’re not going to be the not invented here syndrome. We had the premise at AMO that we will do a complement of both, and obviously we did quite well by growing the company, getting into spaces through acquisition. It’s the same venue. If we see something that somebody else has come up with, we’re not going to be ignorant enough to say, Well, we didn’t come up with it, so it’s not very good.

TS: And this is going to be – talking about your experience now leading this group in Zeiss. This is kind of different from some of your past experiences. I mean you spun out groups, obviously, and you followed them back into a big corporation. You ran a startup with AcuFocus. How different is this, taking a division within a company? How different an experience is this for you? And are there any lessons you’ve learned from past experiences that you’re going to be carrying into this one?

JM: You know, it’s a good question. It is different, and that’s part of the intrigue. First off, I think what I like is – obviously what’s appealing to me is the global nature of the business. That’s one. Number two, it’s all under one umbrella, even though it’s housed in a large engine. It’s all under one umbrella. It’s one of the largest portions of the business, so it’s very material. Because sometimes you can be part of a company, but be a small part, so your significance is less. This is by far the largest part of the medical device, and also one of the largest divisions. So it’s important to the growth of the company. What I’ve learned, and I said this when I took on a small company. The challenges that big and small companies have are very similar, and start with people. It still requires strong people. And so 90% of your opportunities are people, and 90% of your problems are people. If you have the great ones, your life is really good. If you’ve got some problems, your life is really bad. So I would tell you that that doesn’t matter, if you have 20 in an organization or you have 2000. In fact, one could say that it’s tougher in a smaller organization because if you have 2 bad people, or at least one, your percentage is much higher than in a large organization. But in a large organization, sometimes it’s harder to find the individual that’s causing the problem. I think the other learning that I have here is that especially in my career, where I want to do it is I love this industry. I owe this industry a lot. Thirty-six years in this business, and I wanted to just stay in this industry and continue whatever time I have left working here. I have no desire to go outside and learn a different industry. So I’m able to stay, continue to be involved with the ASCRS’s, the ESCRS’s, the OIS’s, the Academies of the world, stay involved with the IIIC, continue to do my other activities with the medical device boards. So I’m able to continue to do what I was doing. Unfortunately, I had to leave AcuFocus, but they’re in a great place. So I’m able to do everything that I’ve been doing, obviously now continued on a larger scale. But for me personally, this just fits perfect. I’m going to keep a small, little office here in Orange County. I’m going to be up in Northern California, which is where my main office is, and then travel. Because the last time I checked, there isn’t a customer in any one of our offices, so I’m going to be in the field talking to customers, meeting with customers, learning technologies. And that’s what I did when I ran the small companies, and that’s what I’ll continue to do here.

TS: And I guess you’ll be visiting that vineyard once or twice, I suppose?

JM: Well, you know, that’s the other nice thing about it. I don’t know, that was an appeal. Dublin, California is very close to Napa. So as you know, I’m part owner of that winery. So if I happen to be there on a Friday, it’s a good excuse to stay up there on a Saturday and Sunday.

TS: Why not?

JM: My son and daughter-in-law are up there. So yeah. It actually worked out quite well. The stars were aligned for this, and I’m really looking forward to working with the Zeiss team. It’s somebody, I was telling the team, I competed against them, and so I know them. And so when I competed against them, I knew we had to be sharp. But knew that there was opportunity there. I was just hoping at the time when I competed against them they didn’t fully exploit that. Well, now I’m here, so we’re going to fully exploit it.

TS: That’s great. And final question: give us a little preview of next week. At OIS@ASCRS you gave a great little opening with the Agar.io game from House of Cards, and sort of an overview of the consolidation of the industry. Do you have an opening theme for this one at OIS@ASRS?

JM: Well, you know, this is a very – this is a different type of group from that perspective. So really, what I’m trying to do at this group is to truly kind of educate what’s happening in our industry. If you look at retina, it is still the biggest frontier that we have faced. So my theme is driving breakthroughs in global access. Why is the US so much larger in serving retina than any other market? Why is that? With the sheer number. How do we address patient compliance? How do you continue to innovate? What is gene therapy? We don’t really talk gene therapy in other categories. So retina, unlike anything else, really has kind of a different makeup. It’s very severe disease, there’s nothing really knocking it out of the park today from a pure response standpoint. So I really want to address that. I think it’s – and I’m going to hopefully get these guys out of their comfort zone, as I try to do. You know, through some fun questions, but your audience is not sitting there to be entertained. They’re there to listen and find out what these leaders are thinking about, and put them on the spot. And I always try to do it in a nice, positive fashion way, but I’ve got some difficult questions for them. That’s why I like to stay as the moderator. I don’t want to be on the panel. I want to stay as the moderator. It’s much more fun –

TS: I was going to say you’re just trying to avoid karma, right? You know what karma can do.

JM: It’s much more fun asking the questions.

TS: As a journalist, I agree with you 100%. I’d rather be on this microphone than that one. We’re always happy to have –

JM: I’m a little worried that payback’s going to be hell. The guys are going to want to – I know Tom Frinzi is probably going to want to jump on that one in a minute.

TS: Yeah, Frinzi wants to do the next one. He’ll do OIS@AAO. He’ll host that one. Anyway, it’s a pleasure to have you at next week’s event. Thank you for taking the time to do that, and congratulations on this new leadership role with Zeiss.

JM: Thanks, Tom. It’s always a pleasure, and I’ll look forward to seeing you soon.

TS: Take care, Jim.