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Venture group buys OCT engine specialist Axsun

20 Oct 2015

Anzu Partners acquires photonics division from Philips-owned Volcano Corporation.

Axsun Technologies, the Billerica, Massachusetts, company that makes integrated photonics “engines” primarily for optical coherence tomography (OCT) applications, has been sold to the venture capital firm Anzu Partners.

US-based Anzu has acquired Axsun from the medical imaging company Volcano Corporation, which had been looking to sell the division since August 2014. However, that plan became complicated when industrial giant Philips bought Volcano earlier this year.

With the divestment now completed, Axsun says that it has received a “significant infusion of growth capital” to fuel product development. An affiliate of Anzu has also purchased the 65,000 square foot building in which Axsun is based.

Axsun’s senior executives are set to remain with the firm, with Jonathan Hartmann as CEO. In a statement issued by the company, he said: “Axsun’s customer-focused research and development, engineering, manufacturing, and sales teams are excited about the opportunity to deliver high-value products for our customers. We will use this new investment and independence to develop the next generation of optical engines for use in medical, industrial, and telecom applications.”

Known to be a key supplier to OCT companies including UK-based Michelson Diagnostics - early last year Michelson placed a volume purchase order for swept laser engines to use in its “Vivosight” systems – Axsun has developed robotic alignment technology that it says enables optical assembly with nanometer-level precision.

Product enhancements
Chief science officer Peter Whitney, one of Axsun’s co-founders, says that the company has focused on improving the manufacturing process over the past year - despite the upheaval of the Philips deal and Volcano’s planned sale of the business before that.

“The new investment will enable ground-breaking product enhancements,” he added. “As an independent company, Axsun will continue its leadership position in producing high-performance, compact optical engines for medical imaging, industrial analyzers, and telecommunications.”

Anzu, which is headquartered in Washington, DC, gains a portfolio company whose proprietary OCT technology Volcano had previously said would provide competitive advantages in the invasive imaging sector, and applications in ophthalmology and dentistry in particular.

According to Volcano’s most recently available financial results, the Axsun division had been posting sales of just under $2 million per quarter* (see update below) before the Philips acquisition.

Axsun had also been involved in a lengthy bout of litigation over OCT technology with medical equipment giant St Jude and its own related subsidiary, LightLab Imaging. LightLab had initially sued Axsun back in July 2009, alleging that Volcano had interfered with an agreement between Axsun and Lightlab after it bought Axsun in 2008.

But following numerous claims and counter-claims made by the two parties, a settlement agreement was reached on August 7, 2014 – exactly the same day that Volcano announced its intention to divest Axsun, through either a sale or a winding-down of the unit's operations.

Happily for Axsun and its employees, the company now looks well set for the immediate future under the wing of its new venture owner.

* update (October 26): Axsun points out that the $2 million figure refers only to industrial revenues, and that when medical sales are also included the company's total turnover is significantly higher.

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