French startup raises $27M from Chinese investor for noninvasive ultrasound glaucoma treatment

EyeOP1 device positioned on the patient's eye--Courtesy of Eye Tech Care

Eye Tech Care has nabbed a commitment from China-focused investor Everpine Capital to invest about €24.8 million ($26.9 million) in two rounds. The firm has already invested an initial, undisclosed amount and it's working with the Lyon-based startup to gain a regulatory approval from the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) for its noninvasive glaucoma ultrasound treatment, which is already marketed in Europe.

Everpine's specialty is facilitating market entry into China, but it also focused on bringing Eye Tech's EyeOP1 glaucoma treatment to market in the U.S. The treatment is called an ultrasound ciliary plasty (UCP)--and is the only procedure to treat uncontrolled glaucoma irrespective of previous treatment, according to the company.

"In addition to allowing us to strengthen our commercial expansion in European markets based on the new product generation that we launched in 2015, I am pleased to see our strategic priority on accessing the Chinese market confirmed by Everpine's strong commitment," said Eye Tech Care CEO Dietrich Wolf in a statement.

The EyeOP1 is used to perform the treatment under local anesthesia.--Courtesy of Eye Tech Care

EyeOP1 is a high intensity-focused ultrasound treatment, an approach that's already routinely used in various cancer-related indications. Lasers are sometimes employed to treat glaucoma--but unlike with lasers, ultrasound maintains its efficacy regardless of the pigmentation of the tissue.

The treatment duration is less than three minutes with no pain as a result. An evenly delivered dose of ultrasound helps preserve the blood aqueous barrier, the company noted. The tiny transducers in the device are the smallest that have been manufactured for a medical application, it added.

Eye Tech has received a medical device classification from CFDA and already has entered clinical testing there. The company and Everpine will work together to gain regulatory approval in China and to market the device there.

More than one-quarter of the world's population with glaucoma are living in China, an estimated 22 million. But only about 6% of them receive treatment despite the fact that a more advanced form of glaucoma that often leads to blindness is more common than elsewhere, noted the company.

"This new technology perfectly meets the needs of our market. We believe it will quickly find its place among Chinese practitioners and will constitute an important change in the treatment of this pathology," said Everpine Managing Partner Tao Wu. 

- here is the announcement