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ViaLase wins $40M to advance femtosecond laser for glaucoma

03 Apr 2024

Californian company founded by ophthalmology laser pioneer Tibor Juhasz backed in series C funding round.

ViaLase, a medical technology startup developing a new femtosecond laser treatment for glaucoma, has closed its series C funding round with $40 million in additional finance.

Based in Alisa Viejo, between Los Angeles and San Diego, ViaLase says that the cash injection will ensure the continued advancement of clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones of the ultrafast laser approach, which it describes as non-invasive.

“If approved, the ViaLase Laser will be the first femtosecond laser used for the treatment of primary open angle glaucoma (POAG),” stated the firm.

‘Non-invasive procedure’
Existing laser treatments for glaucoma - currently believed to affect 76 million people worldwide, a figure expected to grow to 112 million by 2040 - serve to reduce intraocular pressure (IOP) in the eyeball, but are regarded by ViaLase as minimally invasive, rather than non-invasive.

“The ViaLase Laser combines a femtosecond laser and micron-level, high-definition image guidance to deliver a non-invasive glaucoma treatment called femtosecond laser image-guided, high-precision trabeculotomy, or FLigHT,” it explains.

“The ability to non-invasively create a conduit between Schlemm’s canal and the anterior chamber is an advantage unique to the FLigHT procedure. This first-of-its-kind technology addresses an unmet need for a non-invasive procedure for patients who would benefit from a non-pharmacological, non-surgical procedure but whose therapeutic goals do not justify the risks of a surgically invasive procedure such as minimally invasive glaucoma surgery or traditional filtration surgery.”

In October last year, ViaLase completed enrollment of 152 patients for a pivotal, multi-center trial of its approach. The enrolled patients will be treated with either FLigHT or selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), a widely used technique that works by unclogging the eye’s trabecular meshwork.

ViaLase founder and CEO Tibor Juhasz, who is also a professor of ophthalmology at the nearby University of California, Irvine, said in a company release:

“We are preparing to embark on a new phase in our company's evolution - commercialization - and are incredibly fortunate to have the support, resources, financial backing, and counsel of such a high-caliber group of investors."

Previous success
The series C financing, which follows earlier rounds that landed $8 million in April 2019 and $27 million in November 2021, was led by a new investor along with strong support from current investors including Venture Investors Health Fund, Arboretum Ventures, and Falcon Vision, an ophthalmology investment platform supported by the private equity giant KKR.

Jim Adox, executive managing director at Venture Investors, commented: “ViaLase's innovative approach to glaucoma management has the potential to elevate the standard of care for glaucoma patients around the world.

“We have strongly believed in ViaLase's proven leadership, brilliant team, and pioneering technology since we wrote the first seed check to back the team.”

Adox and the other investors will be hoping that Juhasz can repeat the success of his two previous ventures - IntraLase and LenSx. IntraLase, which developed a femtosecond laser approach to refractive vision correction, was acquired by Advanced Medical Optics for more than $800 million back in 2007, while LenSx and its femtosecond platform for cataract surgery was sold to Alcon Laboratories for a similar amount in 2010.

The pivotal trial now under way is aiming to back up the results of an initial study on nine patients showing no adverse events related to the FLigHT treatment and a reduction in average IOP at one and two years post-treatment.

Following that small-scale study lead investigator Thomas Samuelson from Minnesota Eye Consultants said: “The possibility of a non-incisional glaucoma treatment that safely delivers meaningful IOP reduction is an exciting one. I look forward to additional research that further validates these results, which are promising.”

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