Alcon nabs option to buy PowerVision, as the startup bumps up Series D round to $40M

PowerVision's fluid intraocular lens--Courtesy of PowerVision

Beleaguered Novartis ($NVS) vision business Alcon is looking for a turnaround. It's been placing some bets on innovation to help it do so in the long term. Now, the vision care specialist has partnered with--and invested in--fluid intraocular lens implant company PowerVision. Alcon also gained an option to acquire the Belmont, CA-based startup as part of the deal.

The partners didn't disclose the financial details of the investment, but PowerVision did raise the amount of its Series D financing to $40 million in an SEC filing, that's up from a previously announced $30 million for that round. Regardless of the amount, the partners said it will be sufficient to fund further development and clinical trials.

Alcon has partnered up with PowerVision because of its fluid-driven, shape-changing intraocular lens technology, which have been tested in pilot studies. It uses the eye's natural muscle-based accommodation to transport the fluid in the intraocular lens, thereby mimicking the eye's natural process.

The accommodating IOL (AIOL) is for cataract patients with presbyopia, which is farsightedness caused by a lack of elasticity in the eye that is associated with middle and older age. It's surgically implanted into the eye's capsular bag during cataract removal procedures.

"We are committed to finding and developing the best, most innovative treatment option for cataract patients who live with presbyopia," said Michael Onuscheck, Global Surgical Franchise Head at Alcon, in a statement. "The fluid-based technology that PowerVision is working on represents a potential game-changer in the category with the promise to offer patients a natural, continuous range of near to far vision."

The current approach to cataract patients with presbyopia is to replace their natural lens with multifocal IOLs that work by distributing light between different focal points allowing patients to see at multiple distances. AIOLs are expected to offer a more natural contraction of the eye muscle, allowing a more natural and continuous range of vision.

The PowerVision deal isn't Alcon's only recent one targeted at nabbing more innovative products. Earlier this year, Alcon acquired minimally invasive glaucoma device company Transcend Medical for an undisclosed sum. In 2014, Novartis also partnered with then-Google ($GOOG) to develop smart contact lenses--the first for presbyopia and another for glucose sensing in diabetics. The former is slated to be in the clinic this year.

Existing PowerVision venture investors include Venrock, Aisling Capital and Correlation Venture Partners

"We … look forward to working together to bring this exciting technology to market," said PowerVision co-founder, President and CEO Barry Cheskin of the Alcon deal.   

- here is the release
- and here is the SEC filing