Wednesday, May 14, 2008

If It's Eye Care Technology, This Must Be Orange County

THAT Orange County, Calif., have go a centre of little companies developing devices for oculus attention is no coincidence.

Some of the companies were nurtured by a six-year-old private organisation of more than than two twelve top executive directors of corps in the county. The organization, called Orange County Technology Network, or Octane, have so far created 27 companies, most in electronics and software system technology, and biomedical devices, especially for oculus care.

“It’s invention development, a fluctuation on economical development,” said Gary Augusta, executive manager director of Octane.

Other little oculus device companies can follow their beginnings to William J. Link, who earned an technology doctor's degree from and came to Orange County in 1977 to work for a infirmary supply company. He went on to establish two oculus device companies, sell them, and with the return fall in venture working capital investors who finance wellness attention companies. He have got helped to finance 20 companies, one-half of them in Orange County.

“When companies acquire bought out, some of the people in them who owned shares happen they have money,” Mr. Link said. “And if they are entrepreneurial, they acquire the assurance to begin their ain companies. So the industry multiplies over and over again.”

Inch all, there are 310 biomedical houses in Orange County, according to Octane, including respective twelve developing implanted lenses, known as intraocular lenses, for usage in , for vision rectification and instruments to relieve and other oculus diseases.

“This country have the peak concentration of ophthalmic industry in the world,” said Dr. Roger F. Steinert, professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of California, Irvine, which is closely involved in the Octane community effort. Every Thursday, Luis Vasquez of Octane travels to the Eye Institute at the university and listens as medical research workers state him of thoughts they have got for businesses. Then he mentions the thoughts to the venture working capital investors and entrepreneurial businesspeople who function on Octane’s 27-member board.

“There is a singular community here,” said Dr. Steinert, who is helping to raise finances for a $50 million Eye Institute edifice at the university. The edifice will be named for Gavin S. Herbert, laminitis and former president of , the big pharmaceutical merchandises company that first developed antiallergy oculus driblets 60 old age ago in Los Angeles. Allergan moved its central office to Irvine in 1971.

The industry grew over some three decennaries in an organic procedure of little companies being taken over by big ones, which spurred enterprisers to constitute and Pb new companies. Mr. Link, for example, started in the concern 31 old age ago when he heard about a demand for intraocular lenses to replace lenses clouded with . “So Iodine contacted an eye doctor friend of mine and we founded American Checkup Optics to do such as lenses,” Mr. Link said in a recent interview.

Mr. Link sold that company to Allergan in 1986 and then founded Chiron Vision, as an Orange County oculus attention subordinate of the Chiron Corporation, the biotechnology house based in Emeryville in Northern California.

Chiron Vision succeeded with lenses and research into advanced oculus care, and Mr. Link sold it to of Rochester for $300 million in 1997. Mr. Link then became a venture rugged individualist at Brentwood Venture Partners and its replacement firm, Mountainside Ventures.

Eyeonics of Aliso Viejo, Calif., is a company founded by J. Andy Corley and Dr. J. Gilbert Stuart Cumming in 1988. Mr. Corley worked with Mr. Link at American Checkup Optics and at Chiron Vision. At Eyeonics, he changed the industry by persuading to allow patients pay operating surgeons other and directly for specialised lenses.

“Cataract surgery is the most common operation performed, three million a twelvemonth in the United States,” Mr. Corley said in an interview. “But Medicare in recent old age started cutting wage for the process and private insurance companies did the same.” Sol Eyeonics have developed what Mr. Corley called a insurance premium lens system that not only replaced the cataract but decreased the demand to have on afterward for reading.

“Baby baby boomers don’t desire to have on glasses,” Mr. Corley said. “They desire to continue the vernal lifestyle, and they’re willing to pay for it.” Eyeonics made $34 million in gross for its insurance premium lenses last year, he said. Cataract surgery costs up to $2,000 an oculus while surgery that installs the insurance premium lenses can be $5,000 an eye, according to information supplied by Eyeonics and physicians.

Mr. Corley sold Eyeonics last February to Bausch & Lomb for an unrevealed sum of money that he said exceeded $80 million. Impressed with the entrepreneurial environment inch Orange County, Bausch & Lomb is transferring some research mathematical functions to the Eyeonics location, which Mr. Corley will manage.

Seth Thomas J. Berryman, who founded WaveTec Vision Systems in Aliso Viejo, Calif., in 2005 with $5 million in venture working capital from Mr. Link’s Mountainside Ventures, noted in an interview that the demands of oculus attention alteration as engineering advances.

“Many immature people have got surgery these days, and that alterations the computations on their lenses when they come up to necessitate cataract surgery,” Mr. Berryman said. “This shows jobs for operating surgeons who vouch a certain degree of vision flawlessness as a consequence of their operations.”

WaveTec Vision have got responded by developing an instrument that attaches to the surgical microscope, allowing the physician to have a more than precise measuring of a patient’s corrected vision. The company have run trials of the device on 300 patients, have raised $18 million in venture working capital and hopes to accomplish commercial operation next year, Mr. Berryman said.

Another oculus device company is the Glaukos Corporation, headed by Seth Thomas W. Burns, who worked with Mr. Link at Chiron Vision and was recruited by him in 2002 to be president and main executive. Mr. Link functions as president of Glaukos, which is in Lagoon Hills, Calif. Inspiration for the company came from a moneyman in Orange County, Olav Bergheim, whose boy suffered from glaucoma and required high-risk surgeries. “We founded this company,” Mr. George Burns said, “to develop a safer microinvasive process to handle glaucoma.”

Glaukos, with aid from Dr. Richard Little, an oculus doctor at the University of California, Irvine, developed an infinitesimal Ti that tin be implanted in the eye to run out unstable and thus cut down the pressure level that Pbs to glaucoma. The company, backed by $55 million in venture capital, have completed its clinical trials and hopes to procure blessing for the device by mid-2009, Mr. George Burns said.

Noting the intense degrees of activity among the 100s of biomedical companies in Orange County, Mr. Capital Of Maine summed up one of Octane’s undertakings this way: “We have got 400 occupations unfastened and must pull the people.”

This column about small-business tendencies in Golden State and the Occident looks on the 3rd Thursday of every month. E-mail: jamesflanigan@nytimes.com.

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