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Lensar lands $87M funding to ramp customized cataract surgery

03 Oct 2013

Combination of private equity and debt finance to support global roll-out and further technological development.

Lensar, the Florida company targeting the large anticipated market for laser cataract surgery, has closed a new $87 million round of financing.

Fueled by a $27 million equity investment featuring Aisling Capital, Florida Growth and Florida Opportunity Funds, and up to $60 million in credit from new investor PDL BioPharma, Lensar says that it will invest in its US sales force as it continues to roll out the femtosecond laser system around the world.

One of a handful of strongly-backed companies working on similar technology platforms to exploit the huge and growing market for advanced cataract treatment, Lensar’s “laser system for refractive laser-assisted cataract surgery (ReLACS)” provides a 3-D model of the eye’s anterior anatomy – similar to a CAT-scan - resulting in a customized treatment for patients.

“With this financial commitment from PDL and Lensar's current equity investors, Lensar is now fully positioned to address the multi-billion dollar laser-addressable cataract surgery market with what we believe to be a superior product,” said John McLaughlin, president and CEO of PDL.

PDL, which started out life as a biotechnology firm focused on novel treatments for cancer and immunological diseases, now acts as an investor and manager of intellectual property.

On October 1, it provided an initial $40 million in cash to Lensar, with the potential for another $20 million in additional funds by September 30, 2014 – provided that Lensar hits certain performance targets.

Lensar corporate video showing phaco fragmentation procedure:

Positive response
According to Lensar, cataract surgeons have responded positively to what it describes as the “ergonomic efficiencies” and superior imaging capability of its system, which is up against competing technologies from some big hitters in the medical industry.

Abbott-owned Optimedica, Bausch & Lomb’s Technolas and Alcon-backed LensX Lasers have all developed femtosecond laser systems for cataract treatments, but Lensar claims that its platform has enabled surgeons to treat even the most difficult of cataract cases without an increase in overall surgical time.

"The Lensar laser system is extremely patient and surgeon friendly,” said Steve Elms, a managing partner at Aisling Capital and chairman at Lensar. “When you look at the safety and enhanced accuracy for patients and how easily it is integrated into the practice for surgeons, [ours] is the right technology at the right time for a growing market. We are pleased to continue investing in the best product in the industry.”

Meanwhile Lensar’s CEO Nick Curtis commented:

“Lensar is in a large and growing market that has room for multiple players. With strong financial partners like Aisling and PDL, we are in a position to market our differentiated technology to its full potential, and grow our share of the ReLACS market.”

“We will start this initiative immediately, by reaching more doctors, with higher frequency, in order to demonstrate the clear benefits of the Lensar Laser System.”

More specifically, those plans include expanding the company’s US sales force, expanding into new markets and further development of both the hardware and software that make up the overall system.

Within the past 12 months, that system has received US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and European CE mark approval for a series of key procedures involved in cataract treatment – including corneal and arcuate incisions in cataract surgery. September 2012 saw the first procedures using the system take place in US clinics.

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