November 01, 2012
2 min read

Venture capital and private equity firms vital to innovation in ophthalmology

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Strathspey Crown is an opportunity for the practicing ophthalmologist to participate in and support innovation in ophthalmology.

First, I would like to disclose that I am a founder investor in Strathspey Crown. I invested because I believe that it is critical for the ophthalmologist to support the innovation cycle in our field to ensure our future includes new drugs and devices to treat our patients’ unmet needs. I have always considered my duty to include not only the ethical practice of surgical and medical ophthalmology, but also to help to define the problems and unmet needs in the preservation, restoration and enhancement of vision for both individual patients and society as a whole. The pursuit of this goal requires one to work in collaboration with those who are critical to innovation. In America, that includes the research scientist but also the venture capitalist, the private equity investor and the strategic company.

A few thoughts on innovation and the innovation cycle. Innovation is the art of introducing something new, whether it be an idea, product, technique or method. Research is not the same as innovation. Research applied to an unmet clinical need is innovation. The distance between research and the reality of a commercially available drug or device is classically called the translational gap. Crossing this translational gap requires the investment of significant time as well as financial and human capital.

Today, in the early stages of innovation, this capital is usually sourced from friends, family and angel investors. Once proof of principle is achieved, most drugs and devices that cross the translational gap are nurtured by the venture capital industry. Once a product is commercialized, it is usually transitioned to a strategic company, represented in our field by companies such as Alcon and Abbott Medical Optics.

Some strategic companies struggle at some stage in their life cycle. This creates opportunity for the private equity investor to acquire undervalued assets and restructure them into profitable productive companies. This is a critically important function in capitalism and enhances the productivity of many companies and even saves some potentially viable companies from failure or bankruptcy.

In ophthalmology, the acquisition and restructuring of Bausch + Lomb, a 150-year-old company that was struggling, by Warburg Pincus is an example of the positive influence of the private equity investor. A healthy field requires an active innovation cycle and active angel investor and venture capitalist involvement to bring new products to market, a strong group of strategics to acquire and commercialize the innovations globally, and private equity for special situations and turnarounds.

We are fortunate indeed to have all these critical success elements working in ophthalmology to continue to provide us with new drugs and devices to better serve our patients. In my opinion, Strathspey Crown represents another welcome addition to our field. Its core motto, “Of doctors, for patients,” is certainly one I find worthy of support.