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An Early Peek at Glaucoma Devices

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

The clinical community has long been searching for a safe and effective surgical alternative to drugs for glaucoma, but the field has moved slowly. A decade ago, non-invasive laser procedures began earning a place as a second-line therapy with limited durability. Invasive surgeries are reserved for end-stage glaucoma because of their complexity, their serious complications, and their high failure rates. Venture firms believe a large, unmet clinical need represents a new $1 billion device market, and the pace of glaucoma device company creation is picking up.

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In Glaucoma, Devices Go Eye-to-Eye with Drugs

Glaucoma is of serious interest to VCs and strategic investors because of its sheer size; the disease affects 3 million people, most of them managed by drugs. Glaucoma drugs have created a $4 billion market, but have several problems, the greatest of which is non-compliance. Glaukos and other device companies aim to introduce devices that are safe and efficacious enough to compete directly with drugs, rather than standing in as an alternative to today's glaucoma surgeries reserved for end-stage patients. Glaukos recently marked a first of its kind victory; with a tiny implantable ophthalmic stent, Glaukos emerged from a PMA clinical trial that convinced an FDA panel of the benefit-to-risk ratio of its approach when used as a first-line therapy in a select group.

Transcend Medical Inc.

Transcend Medical is the first spin-off of ForSight Labs, an ophthalmology-focused incubator created by The Foundry. To treat glaucoma, Transcend's founders have developed a tiny device, the CyPass, that can be inserted with a needle in a patented procedure that only takes 5 to 10 minutes.

Sensimed AG

In the field of glaucoma, there are a lot of unknowns because it hasn't previously been feasible to continuously monitor intraocular pressure. Sensimed was formed to do just that. The young company is developing a sensor that would provide 24-hours worth of intraocular pressure data as an alternative to the point-by-point measurement systems available today. The company likens its device to the Holter monitor in cardiovascular disease-a device that can yield a comprehensive set of diagnostic data as a patient goes about his or her daily life.

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