Fluid-based lensmaker PowerVision acquired by Alcon for $285M

2016 Fierce 15 company PowerVision is being picked up by Novartis’ heavyweight eye-care unit Alcon, in a $285 million deal for its innovative, fluid-based intraocular lens implant for people with cataracts.

Alcon first acquired an option to buy PowerVision in early 2016, calling its technology a potential game-changer, and signed on to a partnership adjacent to the Belmont, California-based company’s $40 million series D round.

Going forward, Alcon says its goals to sell the shape-changing implant worldwide will depend on “significant additional development and clinical trials of the intraocular lens” over the coming years, with the company committing to additional milestone payments that won’t begin until 2023.

“As the industry leader in cataract surgery, we’re eager to accelerate development of this potentially breakthrough accommodating lens technology,” Alcon’s President of Global Business and Innovation Michael Onuscheck said in a statement.

“By treating cataracts and restoring natural, continuous range of vision, this intraocular lens may be the preferred IOL for cataract surgery patients who desire spectacle independence,” Onuscheck added.

RELATED: 2016 Fierce 15 | PowerVision

PowerVision’s design reacts to the natural contractions of the eye muscles—moving fluid around to become thicker when viewing nearer objects and thinner when focusing on farther distances—to provide a variable, monofocal lens compared to the more-rigid implants that distribute light between different focal points.

The FluidVision lens.

That would be helpful to the many patients who also have farsightedness, or presbyopia, which is common among middle-aged and elderly patients with cataracts. In a 2014 pilot study in South Africa, eyes implanted with the fluid-based lens showed an average visual acuity better than 20/20 after 18 months.

It’s been a long road for PowerVision to get to this point. First founded in 2002, the company has raised at least $110 million in venture capital over the years, according to Crunchbase, including from Medtronic, Aisling Capital, Correlation Ventures and Venrock, among others.

“We first worked with [co-founder and CEO Barry Cheskin] in 2003 when he became CEO of NanoGram Devices Corporation and then reunited with him when Venrock led the Series C round of PowerVision in 2010—a difficult fundraising period for all companies but especially medical devices,” said Venrock partner Bryan Roberts.

“We are drawn to unique solutions to large problems led by terrific entrepreneurs,” Roberts said. “Barry and PowerVision’s accommodating intraocular lens completely fit the bill.”

RELATED: Novartis files for Alcon spinoff, citing aging population and developing countries as top growth prospects 

Elsewhere, Johnson & Johnson Vision recently launched what it describes as a next-generation monofocal intraocular lens that provides vision at both intermediate and far distances.

Starting in European commercial markets, the TECNIS Eyhance lens is designed to help cataract patients perform more day-to-day, close range tasks, such as using a computer or operating a car. J&J picked up the TECNIS series of lenses in its $4.3 billion acquisition of Abbott’s medical optics division in early 2017.