22 Dec 2016
Laser micromachining company 3D-Micromac partners with startup Allotex on ‘permanent living contact lens’.
Next month the laser micromachining company 3D-Micromac will deliver the first prototype of its compact new excimer laser to a laboratory in Zurich, where the source will be used to shape what are described as “permanent living contact lenses”.
The laboratory belongs to Allotex, a 2014 startup working on corneal allografts – a technology that promises to permanently treat the most common vision defects: short-sight, long-sight, and presbyopia.
The two companies have signed a cooperative development agreement to produce and market the excimer laser system for precisely shaping the corneal allografts. Made from human collagen, Allotex’s replacement lenses promise an entirely new approach to refractive vision correction – but rely on ultra-precise machining for individual customization.
After 3D-Micromac delivers the first prototype, a second system is slated to arrive at Allotex's commercial facility in Boston, Massachusetts. European trials are expected to start in the second quarter of 2017, ahead of a commercial roll-out of the new excimer system and Allotex lenses in early 2018.
According to the master agreement, Allotex will handle sales and marketing of the system to ophthalmologists and ophthalmic clinics.
Key figures at Allotex include founders Michael Mrochen, one of the pioneers of wavefront-guided and wavefront-optimized laser vision correction, and David Muller. Muller, the Allotex CEO, also founded Summit Technology - the first company to gain US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval for both the use of excimer laser refractive surgery and laser production for the application.
Mrochen is also the CEO at Zurich-based IROC Science, a consultancy firm specializing in translational research projects in ophthalmology, and started up the Dublin, Ireland, company ClearSight Innovations in 2013. It is working on new eye metrology methods, with the aim of improving cataract surgery outcomes.
Speaking to the magazine Cataract and Refractive Surgery Today earlier this year, Muller explained that the new technique actually dates back in some ways to the very earliest surgical attempts to correct human vision - first attempted by José Barraquer in 1949, with donor tissues.
In the pre-laser age there were no tools with sufficient precision to shape a predictable refractive change, Muller said. But the combination of state-of-the-art laser shaping and better techniques for preserving donor corneal tissue means that ethical, affordable allograft implants for vision correction can now be offered, he added.
Muller sees presbyopia (age-related long-sightedness) as the first application, with the Allotex approach well suited to outpatient day surgery thanks to the rapid healing - within hours - of the graft.
He said of the collaboration with the Germany-based laser systems firm: “We have been working with 3D-Micromac for over a year on the initial prototype development. It was clear from the start that 3D-Micromac has the right technology, experience and approach to make our partnership a success. With this agreement, we have set the stage for what we anticipate will be a highly successful commercial roll-out of our mutual technologies.”
3D-Micromac’s CEO Tino Petsch added: “We view Allotex’s innovative lens technology as the future of permanent eye correction. We look forward to creating a unique success story by combining their potentially life-changing technology with our laser micromachining expertise.”