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Carl Zeiss Steps Up in Ophthalmics

Executive Summary

Long part of a German foundation dedicated to improving optical science, Carl Zeiss Meditec has transformed itself into a more entrepreneurial entity, hoping to capitalize on the booming ophthalmics market. For Zeiss, the timing couldn't be better--driven by soaring demographics and new technology, the industry is hot. Plus an industry ripe for consolidation plays well into Zeiss' plans. The only question is: does Zeiss' foundation heritage help or hinder its efforts?

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AMO Puts a New Spin on Ophthalmic Devices

Once part of Allergan, Advanced Medical Optics was spun off when its parent company wanted to focus on pharmaceuticals. Executives of the new company believe that life as an independent medical device company gives it the freedom to operate and the focus it needs to thrive in the ophthalmic device market. In the spin-out, AMO got market-leading brands with an almost 40 year history, an ophthalmic sales force that has just about the longest continuity in the industry, and strong management with a track record more than two decades long. But with its new start, AMO also inherited a large debt load, a thin R&D pipeline, and products that serve markets with single-digit growth prospects. It's challenge:to create innovative new products in an industry where it can't hope to match, in terms of R&D spending and the cash it can spend on acquisitions, competitors three times its size. AMO's strategy is to become a specialty medical device company, serving largely ophthalmic surgeons, with a narrow focus on three segments; cataract surgery, refractive surgery, and eye care solutions. It argues that in ophthalmology, bigger isn't better, and that with a nimble corporate structure concentrating on a few hand-picked areas that build off of core strengths, its R&D and business development dollars will go far in helping it become an industry innovator.

Presbyopia at Arm's Length

VCs have funded at least a dozen start-ups working in presbyopia, including C&C Vision, whose founder Stuart Cumming has been quietly working on an accomodating intraocular lens for more than ten years. With the FDA's Ophthalmic Devices Panel unanimously recommending premarket approval of C&C Vision's CrystaLens accommodating intraocular lens for cataract patients, his firm is very close to being able to reap a first-mover advantage in this new market.

Allergan Crosses The Last Frontier in Ophthalmology

Ophthalmology companies have long recognized that many people will pay for the benefit of being able to see without wearing glasses. The success of LASIK laser surgery has borne this out, but that market is maturing. Presbyopia, the disorder that causes people to need reading glasses as they get older, isn't helped by laser surgery. It can, however, be helped by intraocular lenses. With Allergan's recent CE approval of an intraocular lens for presbyopia, ophthalmology companies see a new market to capitalize on.

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