I remember when I was a kid, I heard one of my teachers say that to believe in God, all you need to do is learn about the complexity of the human eye. Not to get into the philosophical topic of proving God exists, but objectively, it is hard for me to imagine that the human eye and all its complexities just came into being. In fact, it is so complex, we haven’t even fully comprehended just how complex it is and good evidence of that is the fact that, according to The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, there are an estimated 49.1 million people worldwide who are blind.
It is for this reason that when I recently read an article about an Israeli company called CorNeat Vision, that leveraged cutting-edge technology to help a blind man see again, that I just had to learn more.
In fact, I wanted to connect with this company so badly, I did something I almost never do and I posted on my personal Facebook asking if anyone knew the team and would be willing to make an intro. Several offered and it wasn’t long before I was connected with Dr. Gilad Litvin, the founder and medical officer of CorNeat Vision.
CorNeat Vision was founded on December 27th, 2015, by Dr. Gilad Litvin and Almog Aley-Raz.
Gilad is the inventor and ophthalmologist behind the venture. He brings in-depth medical knowledge, surgical capabilities, research and development experience, invention and IP drafting experience, leadership and proven fundraising success to this partnership. Almog comes from the tech side of things.
Gilad completed medical school at the Hadassah-University Medical Center, and went on to a residency program in ophthalmology followed by a surgical retina fellowship. During this fellowship, he drafted his first patent application for a glaucoma drainage device. After completing two years of retina training, Gilad focused on innovation in ophthalmology. In June 2015, the artificial cornea invention was submitted. Looking for funding, Gilad approached Almog, a long-time friend, a neighbor, and a mountain biking teammate, for advice about a meeting with a potential investor, and they went on to create CorNeat Vision.
Almog is an electrical engineer and an MBA graduate. He completed eight years of Air Force service as an officer and an engineer, left in 1999, and joined the tech industry. He joined Comverse Infosys (Renamed Verint), developing voice biometrics solutions for commercial and government uses. He went on to establish PerSay, where he eventually became the CEO and managed the company to an exit in 2010. PerSay was sold to Nuance, where Almog managed the Biometrics and Security line of business, from a couple million a year of revenue to a 100 million dollars a year, pioneering enterprise biometrics globally.
CorNeat Vision currently has 15 employees and is based in Ra’anana, Israel. The company itself focuses on clinical-stage, biomimetic implant technology. Their platform is a 100% synthetic, non-degradable porous material, which mimics the micro-structure of the extracellular matrix, which is the natural biological collagen mesh that provides structural and biochemical support to surrounding cells. The material stimulates cellular proliferation when implanted, which leads to progressive tissue integration.
CorNeat Vision invented an artificial cornea (Keratoprosthesis, or KPro), and a synthetic non-degradable patch to substitute preserved or processed tissue in ophthalmic surgery (The EverPatch) that are in clinical trials now. They also invented a glaucoma drainage device and a product for gingival recession that are in development and advanced animal testing. CorNeat Vision has registered IP for a variety of potential use cases in ophthalmology and other fields of medicine.
As far as the proprietary tech that the company has developed, they use a chemical engineering technology called electrospinning that can fabricate structures in the micrometer and nanometer scale. As a result, they can recreate biologic structures that make up the micro-anatomical skeleton of our tissues using synthetic polymers.
CORNEAT VISION is a unique company that is relatively faster in its progress with its current devices than most companies in the space. Getting two implants into clinical trials within five years is a significant achievement. No wonder they raised more than $12 million from private investors and a Swiss hedge fund that joined the last COVID-induced round.
They are successful in their technology validation, and their work is already recognized globally. CorNeat Vision was named Israel’s BioMed start-up of the year in 2018, and was selected for 1.2M RMB in prizes, winning China’s Second International Innovation and Entrepreneurship competition in 2018 (Shenzhen) – selected from close to 1,500 companies from nine industries and nine countries. It is the highest innovation award an Israeli company ever received in China.
CorNeat Vision intends on continuing to invest in low-medium income countries and offer their solutions there. One of their successes is the approvals they recently received for opening a clinical site in Kenya. Once approved, and in most countries, the devices will be sold through reimbursement codes to health insurance providers. In some areas, the devices will be sold to medical institutions and providers, and in some areas, it will be sold privately.
The company is planning to contribute some of the business to enable people in underprivileged countries to access their solutions.
As I mentioned, the human eye is so complex, even the world’s biggest experts don’t have a full understanding of all its complexities. I surely don’t. I do know one thing though. If CorNeat Vision accomplishes its mission to help cure blindness, they will have accomplished something scientists have struggled with for hundreds of years, and they will have made the world that much better.
I know I’ll be watching this company with a close eye. No pun intended.