Healionics Spins Out Ophthalmic Device Company In Europe
This article was originally published in Start Up
Companies offering broadly applicable biomaterials platforms often have an identify problem and with that, a funding problem. Seattle-based Healionics Corp. is solving that problem by creating clinically focused spin-outs that just happen to be in Europe where they can capture non-dilutive funding from regional governments. The company’s first spin-out, iSTAR Medical SA, is working on ophthalmic devices, specifically a suprachoroidal drainage shunt for glaucoma. In September, iSTAR was awarded a €3.6 million ($4.7 million) grant from Belgium’s Région Wallonne government.
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Glaucoma is of serious interest to VCs and strategic investors because of its sheer size; the disease affects 3 million people, most of them managed by drugs. Glaucoma drugs have created a $4 billion market, but have several problems, the greatest of which is non-compliance. Glaukos and other device companies aim to introduce devices that are safe and efficacious enough to compete directly with drugs, rather than standing in as an alternative to today's glaucoma surgeries reserved for end-stage patients. Glaukos recently marked a first of its kind victory; with a tiny implantable ophthalmic stent, Glaukos emerged from a PMA clinical trial that convinced an FDA panel of the benefit-to-risk ratio of its approach when used as a first-line therapy in a select group.
Device manufacturers looking to bolster the biocompatibility of their products can now turn to Healionics, a supplier of biomaterial scaffolds designed to improve the biointegration of percutaneous or fully implanted medical devices. The company's STAR technology is a synthetic, three-dimensional matrix, similar to a thin, porous sponge. Because this biomaterial has been precisely engineered with uniform pore sizes to the approximate size of a single cell, the company says that living tissue and new blood vessels actually grow and weave into these pores.