Belkin Laser: Glaucoma care in a matter of seconds

The complexities of the eye bring with it challenges that accompany medical conditions that pertain to our eyesight and the functionality of the eye, conditions such as glaucoma.

 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When I think about the human eye, to me, it is the epitome of sophistication. Not to get too philosophical here, but anyone who wants to understand how complex our world is and, as far as I’m concerned, how obvious it is that there is a creator, they don’t have to look much farther than the human eye.
The complexities of the eye bring with it challenges that accompany medical conditions that pertain to our eyesight and the functionality of the eye, conditions such as glaucoma.
For those who know someone suffering from glaucoma, we are very familiar with the symptoms, but for the rest of us, glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision.
This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60. About two million people are affected by glaucoma in the US.
So if there was accessible glaucoma care that was both effective and affordable, well, that would be a game-changer.
Belkin Laser is exactly that, “Accessible Glaucoma Care in One Second.”
The company has raised $19 million in venture capital funding, from sources including the Innovation Authority, CR-CP Life Science Fund, Rimonci Capital, Santen Ventures, BioLight Life Sciences and C-Mer Eye Care Holdings, the Rad Biomed Accelerator, a European Horizon 2020 grant of $3 million, as well as $2.5 million in its Series A financing round led by ZIG Ventures from Singapore.
Prof. Michael Belkin, founder and medical director of Belkin Laser, is an internationally renowned scientist and entrepreneur, whose previous Israel-based glaucoma company, Optonol, was sold to Alcon in 2010 for $200 million.
On the industry outlook, Daria Lemann-Blumenthal, the CEO of Belkin Laser said, “These investments signal to us that the industry has trust in our technology, which will impact the lives of millions of glaucoma patients by opening a new viable drop-less treatment option. The good news is that fast, easy and effective glaucoma treatment is one step closer for millions of patients.”
Belkin Laser was founded in 2013, and focuses on the development of laser treatment to help cure glaucoma, which causes gradual loss of eyesight. Their treatment is non-invasive and takes just one second to perform. It is activated by a touchscreen and controlled by a high-resolution image acquisition algorithm, combined with a proprietary eye tracker.
“The capital raised will be used to continue the GLAUrious multi-center trial and to launch new clinical trials in Asia,” said Lemann-Blumenthal. “We have taken another step towards quick, easy, and effective treatment for millions of glaucoma patients.”
Belkin Laser is headquartered in Yavne and currently employs 15 people.
As I write these words, drugs are still the default in glaucoma first line treatment, and glaucoma laser treatment tends to be the second choice.
However, medication management of glaucoma frequently fails to control intraocular pressure (IOP) in glaucoma patients, patient non-compliance is most often the primary culprit. This is true for many conditions and is not specific to glaucoma.
Ophthalmologists have sought other means for treatment to avoid adherence as an issue. Over the years, many trials have supported laser, considering it as at least as effective as eye drops are in lowering IOP.
The unequivocal proof was provided in March 2019, when The Lancet published the results of the LiGHT trial. The results indicated that the current gold standard glaucoma laser (SLT) provided more robust IOP lowering while being a more cost-efficient first-line treatment, compared to eye drops.
At the same time, however, there has been an ongoing need for accessible glaucoma laser treatment which is practical and straightforward, allowing every ophthalmologist to treat their glaucoma patients with the same ease as writing out the prescription for eye drops.
The innovation at the heart of Belkin’s technology is the transscleral approach, which refers to going across the sclera, or white, of the eye. The laser beams from their device are delivered to the target area in the eye, known as the trabecular meshwork, through the external part of the eye, the limbus.
This is the approach that allows automated treatment completed in one second. The simplicity of the idea allows the laser treatment to be administered by all eye care providers making first-line glaucoma treatment available for every patient worldwide.
The company was established in 2013 with Lemann-Blumenthal at the helm. The idea for Belkin Laser came from Prof. Michael Belkin, who approached Israel’s Rad Biomed Accelerator with the idea.
They loved the idea and made the introduction to Lemann-Blumenthal. It turned out that Belkin had known her since she was a baby – as her late father, Prof. Michael Blumenthal, was Belkin’s mentor for many years.
But the cinematic appeal of the story doesn’t end there. Lemann-Blumenthal has ophthalmology in her blood, as both her grandparents and father were ophthalmologists.
Her father in particular was a renowned ophthalmologist, being the only Israeli who served as the president of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive surgery (ESCRS).
Her mother, Naomi Blumenthal, is a former member of parliament in Israel, which further demonstrates that being an empowered woman was also a key value in her upbringing.
Before co-founding Belkin Laser, Lemann-Blumenthal was CEO of the Ein Tal Eye Center for six years. Her extensive managerial experience, includes business development, project management, and team leadership. Lemann-Blumenthal completed her LL.B. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an executive MBA at Tel-Aviv University – and both degrees awarded with dean’s honors.
Belkin’s story is also impressive. In addition to being an internationally renowned scientist and entrepreneur, he is also the inventor of the ExPRESS glaucoma shunt, and a founder of Optonol.
As a professor emeritus of Ophthalmology at Tel Aviv University, he established the Tel Aviv University Eye Research Institute at Sheba Medical Center, where he headed the Ophthalmic Technology Laboratory. Belkin holds a master’s degree in science from Cambridge University.
Belkin Laser is currently in the midst of the clinical testing of its one-second glaucoma treatment.
The final product is expected to enter the market within two years. I’m sure it will positively disrupt the way glaucoma is treated worldwide at an accelerated rate.
The thought of experiencing what millions of people around the world have to endure with glaucoma quite frankly, scares me. On the other hand, the thought that there’s an Israeli company that will soon be able to prevent that in a quick and non-intrusive way makes me smile with pride