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Eye Health Firm Acquired in $100M+ Deal

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It’s working on a glaucoma treatment.

TOKYO and CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND — Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma Inc. has acquired Quethera Ltd., a U.K.-based gene therapy company that is developing treatments for ocular disorders such as glaucoma.

Astellas may pay up to £85 million (about $109.8 million at today’s exchange rate) to Quethera shareholders, including upfront and contingent amounts. Founded in 2013, Quethera has now become a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas.

“Quethera’s novel technology approach is focused on exploring potential treatment options for common ophthalmic diseases, such as glaucoma, that can cause blindness and severely affect the quality of life for patients,” said Peter Widdowson, CEO of Quethera. “This deal enables us to accelerate our evaluation of this investigational technology program to see if we can slow or prevent disease progression for these patients.”

The acquisition includes Quethera’s ophthalmic gene therapy program. It “uses a recombinant adeno-associated viral vector system (rAAV) to introduce therapeutic genes into target retinal cells for the treatment of glaucoma,” according to a press release.

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Success with the program “would address a high unmet medical need in glaucoma patients who are at risk of losing their eyesight,” said Kenji Yasukawa, president and CEO of Astellas.

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FDA Recalls Online Vision Test

The company was formerly known as Opternative.

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The Visibly Online Refractive Vision Test has been recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The test by Visibly, formerly known as Opternative, “is being recalled since the firm has not received authorization from FDA to market the product,” according to a notice from the FDA.

The FDA states that the test has had worldwide distribution, including including Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Utah.

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Healio.com notes that the FDA sent a warning letter to Opternative in 2017. The news site reports that the company did not respond to a request for comment on the recall.

The American Optometric Association states that in April 2016, it “issued a formal complaint to the FDA that emphasized Opternative’s lack of premarket approval (PMA) prior to marketing. The organization says it “indicated that the test should be removed from the market altogether.”

AOA states that it had concerns about “the potential for inaccurate prescriptions, missed diagnoses of serious and general health conditions, and the creation of a prescription with little input from an eye doctor.”

“Optometrists and other physicians know that eye exams are essential care and that new health technologies must always enhance the doctor-patient relationship and help deliver improved outcomes,” said AOA President Barbara L. Horn, OD. “They must also comply with the law — that’s exactly what the AOA and our state associations have insisted on through the information we provided to the FDA and other agencies in this matter, and we’re proud that it appears to have made a difference.”

The action is a Class 2 recall, meaning the FDA considers it “a situation in which use of, or exposure to, a violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.”

The FDA explains that recall is “a voluntary action that takes place because manufacturers and distributors carry out their responsibility to protect the public health and well-being from products that present a risk of injury or gross deception or are otherwise defective.”

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6-Location Optometry Practice Acquired by VSP Ventures

All locations will continue to operate under the EyeZone brand.

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RANCHO CORDOVA, CA – VSP Ventures announced the acquisition of EyeZone, a six-location optometry practice in Nevada.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 2004 by Daniel Rowan, OD, EyeZone serves Northern Nevada, with locations in West Reno, Midtown, South Reno, Carson City, Fallon and Lake Tahoe. All locations will continue to operate under the EyeZone brand.

“With an unwavering focus on patient care and commitment to their community, the EyeZone team is a shining example of what a top-notch eye care and eyewear experience looks like,” said Steve Baker, president of VSP Ventures. “We’re thrilled to welcome them to the VSP Ventures family.”

“As we explored options to transition ownership, it was critical that it be with partners that shared our care-focused philosophy and would allow us to continue delivering that care while freeing us from the day-to-day management of the business,” said Rowan. “Partnering with VSP Ventures has afforded us that opportunity.”

In 2014, Rowan merged locations with a practice owned by Mark Michitsch, OD, who became a partner in EyeZone. In 2018, Amber Belaustegui, OD, also became a partner following EyeZone’s acquisition of her practice. Today, there are seven optometrists across EyeZone’s six locations. All doctors and practice staff will remain in their roles.

“Looking towards the next phase in our careers, we wanted to find partners who shared our values,” said Michitsch. “Our reputation and legacy of comprehensive patient care will continue on, and we’re set up for even more success as we look to the future in partnership with VSP Ventures.”

“Transitioning away from the administrative aspects of running a practice allows us to focus on what we love most – seeing patients and providing a differentiated and personal eye care experience to the community,” said Belaustegui.

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‘Eyeglass Store Pioneer’ Dies at 84

He founded Eyear 1 Hour Optical Inc. in Tennessee.

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Jim Crittenden, founder of Eyear 1 Hour Optical Inc. in Tennessee, has died, Chattanoogan.com reports.

He was 84.

The website described Crittenden as an “eyeglass store pioneer” for starting the state’s first one-hour eyewear superstore more than six decades ago.

He was well-known for his marketing antics, such as dying his beard purple for a TV commercial.

According to Chattanoogan.com, Crittenden’s business was the first of its kind to advertise in the state, following a legal victory in the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Crittenden was also an owner of the Lookouts minor league baseball team for several years, and helped bring the team back to Chattanooga in the 1970s.

Read more at Chattanoogan.com

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