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Eye Health America Makes an Acquisition

It’s the company’s 6th purchase of the year.

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(Press Release) ATLANTA — Eye Health America, an eyecare practice management company, announced its sixth acquisition of the year, adding Updegraff Laser Vision to its roster of eyecare member practices in the Southeast U.S. The acquisition of the Tampa Bay-based practice continues to strengthen Eye Health America’s presence across the region and establishes a strategic partnership between Updegraff Laser Vision and EHA’s existing member practices, including The Eye Associates of Manatee.

Updegraff Laser Vision, based in Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, FL., is led by one of the most renowned LASIK and refractive surgeons in the world, Stephen Updegraff, M.D., FACS. Dr. Updegraff holds several U.S. LASIK patents and performed the first LASIK procedure in Asia (and the third in the US) in 1994. In addition to LASIK, the practice’s facilities feature modern technologies for cataract surgery, lens implants, dry eye syndrome and ophthalmic plastic surgery.

“We are thrilled to work with the talented team at Updegraff Laser Vision,” said Rod Roeser, CEO of Eye Health America. “Dr. Updegraff and his entire team have rightfully earned a reputation for the highest quality care experience, and we’re looking forward to helping them grow their practice and maintain their strong reputation in West Florida and beyond.”

Eye Health America, formed earlier this year by LLR Partners, a lower middle market private equity firm, offers superior strategic and operational support to practice groups and ambulatory surgery centers, including financial support, administrative resources and business insights. These offerings ensure member practices can meet strategic growth and business management metrics while providing the highest quality patient care and outcomes.

“Our partnership with Eye Health America is a strategic part of our long-term commitment to our patients and their eye health,” said Dr. Stephen Updegraff, owner and medical director at Updegraff Laser Vision. “As a part of the EHA network, we will ensure our practice has continued access to the latest technology and treatments, as well as an extensive network of trusted and qualified providers.”

Alongside Updegraff Laser Vision, EHA’s other member practices include The Eye Associates, Clemson Eye, Piedmont Surgery Center, Montgomery & Riddle Eyecare and The Surgery & Laser Center at Professional Park. The company is led by an experienced team of industry veterans including CEO, Rod Roeser; Chief Medical Officer, Cathleen McCabe; Chief Development Officer, Philip Isham; and more.

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For more information on Eye Health America, visit www.eyehealthamerica.com.

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CooperVision Names Senior Brand Marketing Director for Myopia Management in North America

She has more than 20 years of professional experience in the healthcare space.

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Jane Agbontaen

(PRESS RELEASE) SAN RAMON, CA — CooperVision has named Jane Agbontaen as senior brand director for Myopia Management – Americas. In this newly created role, Agbontaen will be responsible for the strategic planning and execution of all activities that support the U.S. growth of CooperVision’s myopia management portfolio, specifically the Brilliant Futures Myopia Management Program with MiSight 1 day, the first and only FDA-approved product1 clinically proven to slow the progression of myopia when initially prescribed for children 8-12 years old in the U.S.

Agbontaen’s role includes cross-functional and cross-business support to ensure CooperVision’s MiSight 1 day commercialization strategy is successful. Growing the portfolio includes touchpoints with eyecare practitioners and patients, as well as healthcare and legislative ecosystems that govern children’s health and wellness.

“With the FDA approval of MiSight and the impending roll out of our Brilliant Futures Myopia Management Program, we require an evolution of our sales and marketing approach as we take on the rising epidemic of childhood myopia. Going forward, broadening our scope of healthcare provider alliances and industry partnerships are essential elements of shaping the standard of care in myopia management,” said Simon Seshadri, vice president of marketing at CooperVision, North America. “Jane’s previous experiences and skills are a perfect fit for this role and to help us achieve our desired outcomes. I’m delighted to have her onboard.”

Agbontaen has more than 20 years of professional experience in the healthcare space and with large medical device players such as Hologic, Abbot Medical Optics and Johnson & Johnson DePuy Synthes. While at Abbot Medical Optics, which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care during her tenure, Agbontaen managed a broad brand portfolio in the cataracts segment, including intraocular lenses and instruments. Agbontaen received her bachelor’s degree from Long Island University and her MBA from the Stern School at New York University.

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Press Releases

OGI Eyewear Names Chief Creative Officer

He will not only lead creative development but will also serve as partner.

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(PRESS RELEASE) OGI Eyewear, a member of The Optical Foundry, announces the appointment of David Duralde as chief creative officer. Duralde has joined the company not only to lead creative development but also as a partner.

Duralde’s distinguished optical career is marked by extensive experience both with licensed and independent brands, including his most recent role as Chief Creative Officer at Kenmark Eyewear. “I am very excited about the opportunity to redefine and reinvigorate the niche independent brands in the OGI portfolio of products and provide a consistent, compelling story to the brands. I can’t wait to get started with the OGI
Eyewear product and marketing teams to connect deeply with our loyal customers, create frames that light up many more faces and help independent practices thrive and shine in this vigorously changing market.” said Duralde.

Robert Rich, CEO of OGI, notes, “David is exactly the right person to lead us in the revitalization of our brand portfolio. Despite a solid market position, OGI and its family of brands will benefit from an injection of fresh ideas and design innovations that will expand our leading role in the realm of affordable luxury frames.”

Rich adds, “This is a homecoming of sorts for David, having begun his formative optical design training at l.a.Eyeworks, another member of the Optical Foundry.”

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First US Patient Gets Wireless Retinal Device Implant

It’s aimed at restoring partial sight to patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

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(PRESS RELEASE) PITTSBURGH – UPMC has implanted the first patient in the U.S. with a new wireless retinal device as part of a clinical trial aimed at restoring partial sight to patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

“Vision research has advanced dramatically in the recent past and UPMC is at the forefront of this revolution. This is the first of many such breakthroughs led by UPMC and Pitt that will benefit patients with vision loss in our community and around the world,” said José-Alain Sahel, MD, director of the UPMC Eye Center, Eye and Ear Foundation chair of ophthalmology and distinguished professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who initiated the trial at UPMC. “We are proud to be the first center in the United States to test this next generation retinal implant that could help treat an incurable disease like AMD.”

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The system, called PRIMA, is designed to restore sight in patients blinded by retinal degeneration. It consists of a 2 millimeter-by-2 millimeter, 30-micron thick miniaturized wireless photovoltaic chip placed under the damaged retina. It works in tandem with augmented reality glasses that have a built-in miniaturized camera and infrared projector.

The chip acts like a tiny artificial retina, made up of 378 tiny electrodes that convert infrared light from the glasses to electrical signals that are carried by the optic nerve to the brain. After receiving the implant, patients undergo an intensive rehabilitation program that trains their brains to understand and interpret the signals from the implant in combination with their remaining natural vision. Compared to earlier-generation implants, PRIMA is wireless and has significantly more electrodes, which allows for the transmission of more visual information.

“This is an incredibly exciting first for us at UPMC and I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Joseph Martel, MD, the implanting surgeon at the UPMC Eye Center and the Pitt School of Medicine, and the principal investigator of the trial at UPMC. “I’m grateful to our patients who have volunteered to participate in this trial, without whom this would not be possible.”

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people older than 50. Today, it affects approximately 14 million people in the United States, and the prevalence is expected to rise as the baby boomers age. As AMD progresses, the center of vision becomes increasingly blurry. “Atrophic” AMD, which accounts for a large proportion of advanced cases, has no curative treatment available.

The UPMC feasibility trial is running in parallel with the first-in-human trial in France, which involves five patients with advanced AMD, who now have been followed for more than a year. The 12-month results from the French study demonstrated the ability of most patients to identify sequences of letters and there were no device-related serious adverse effects.

“We are working with a great sense of urgency because the aging population of the United States, especially the western Pennsylvania region we live in, will see a significant rise in the number of patients at risk for vision loss through diseases like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and vascular eye disease, as well as earlier onset genetic conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa,” said Sahel. “This is why our physicians and researchers at UPMC and Pitt, in collaboration with our U.S. and international colleagues — especially at the Paris Vision Institute at Sorbonne University — are taking a multi-pronged effort to treat and rehabilitate patients with vision impairments.”

In March 2019, UPMC broke ground on the UPMC Vision and Rehabilitation Tower at UPMC Mercy, which when completed, will provide advanced specialty clinical care and innovative programs for visually impaired patients. It also will be the home for the vision research program at Pitt and UPMC.

The PRIMA implant was invented by Daniel Palanker, professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, and licensed and developed by Pixium Vision, a spin-off from the Paris Vision Institute. Sahel is a co-founder of Pixium and holds shares in the company.

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