October 2020


Winning Pitch Challenge goes virtual

by Liz Hillman Editorial Co-Director

Judging criteria
1. Magnitude of problem
2. Innovativeness of solution
3. Market size and strategy
4. Potential for reimbursement by payers (vs. out-of- pocket payment)
5. Competitive analysis
6. Business model including capital requirements
7. Intellectual property
8. The team
9. Clarity of request for investment

The second Winning Pitch Challenge, like nearly every medical meeting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, took place virtually after it was originally slated for the 2020 ASCRS Annual Meeting.
Vance Thompson, MD, who co-moderated the Winning Pitch Challenge with Edward Holland, MD, in July from their respective offices, described how the goal of the program is to “speed up the pace of innovation in ophthalmology, to transform ASCRS member ophthalmologists’ ideas into prototypes and early stage studies that lead to successful companies through providing educational resources, networking opportunities, wonderful mentorship, and exposure to resources.”
“We think that the pace of innovation in ophthalmology can be significantly accelerated by providing ophthalmologists with tools and assistance that can help them transform their novel ideas for improvements in patient care into functioning prototypes that can be tested in early-stage studies,” Dr. Thompson said. “The Winning Pitch Challenge website and events are designed to achieve this goal by providing ophthalmologists with free access to key educational resources, highly experienced mentors with relevant business knowledge, networking opportunities, and exposure to potential financial resources and guidance that can help overcome critical, early stage obstacles, such as securing intellectual property, developing a working version of the product, identifying a team, and designing early stage studies.”
Prior to the symposium, the Winning Pitch Challenge accepts and reviews submissions and connects the ophthalmologist with the idea to a mentor who is experienced in the innovation cycle. The mentor advises the physician on how to create a pitch deck with their thoughts organized in a way that potential investors are used to analyzing. The completion of that pitch deck takes the applicant to Round 2. The Round 2 submissions are analyzed by the judges who drill down to three finalists who go on to the finals, Round 3. Round 3 took place in the virtual setting where pitches were evaluated by judges who selected who would win first prize for $25,000, second for $15,000, and third for $5,000.

The judges

• Juliet Tammenoms Bakker, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Longitude Capital
• Richard Lindstrom, MD, Founder, Minnesota Eye Consultants; Partner, Flying L Partners
• William Link, PhD, Managing Partner, Flying L Partners
• Jim Mazzo, Advisor, Carl Zeiss Meditec;
Executive Chairman, Neurotech; Advisor, Bain Consulting

The pitches

Gul Nankani, MD
Company/concept: Bynocs
Mentor: Jan Bonel

Dr. Nankani pitched a new method of treating amblyopia as a binocular vision disorder. He said there are 234 million amblyopic patients worldwide (9 million in the U.S.), accounting for a market of $4.5 billion.
“The current method of treating amblyopia is far from perfect. Eighty-five percent of cases are left with some form of residual amblyopia,” he said, noting a lack of fusion and stereopsis with patching.
“Amblyopia is now recognized as a binocular problem and newer treatment modalities aim to treat both eyes together. Dichoptic therapy is now emerging as an effective option,” Dr. Nankani said.
He described Bynocs as a cloud-based software program that follows the dichoptic principle in the form of games. The dominant eye gets the stimuli with reduced contrast, promoting development of binocular vision, Dr. Nankani said.
So far, he said research with the product has included 150 patients (median age of 7 years) and has shown an improvement of 4 logMAR lines in 30 sessions with 90% of patients developing/gaining stereopsis. He also said the company has a presence in 300 eyecare centers in India with more than 4,000 patients enrolled. Bynocs plans to enter the U.S. market this year and will conduct clinical trials. Within 1–2 years, it hopes to launch commercially in the U.S.
Dr. Nankani explained that the system would be based on a subscription, pay-per-use model with licenses sold in bundles. About 30 licenses are needed per patient with an approximate cost of $1,500, which could be partially covered by insurance, he said.
In discussion with the judges, Dr. Nankani further explained how this technology provides a permanent treatment by addressing the binocular problem with amblyopia vs. patching. Dr. Lindstrom mentioned a company several years ago that was trying to produce a similar product but also used to improve visual quality for patients who were dissatisfied with premium IOLs. Dr. Nankani said he thinks this is an interesting additional application that they’re already working on with good results, though there’s not yet enough data to publish.

Prakhyat Roop, MD
Company/concept: EDGE-less Diffractive Lens
Mentor: Jeff Weinhuff

Diffractive technology has emerged as the favored technology for presbyopia correction, Dr. Roop said, but current diffractive IOLs have a high percentage of negative visual outcomes, such as loss of contrast, glare, and halos, which is keeping this premium IOL segment from dominating the global market.
Dr. Roop set out to create a diffractive lens with significantly fewer of these negative side effects, introducing what he called “the quantum leap in multifocal IOL technology—the edge-less diffractive.”
Elimination of the steep inner facet in the diffractive profile reduces scatter of light caused by the steps in a traditional diffractive IOL, Dr. Roop said. The lens, he continued, has no ring shadow, no scatter, reduced halo, better contrast sensitivity, and wastes less light.
Dr. Roop said he compared data from PanOptix (Alcon) studies to that of the EDGE-less Diffractive Lens and said the latter “outperforms on all three foci by an unprecedented margin.”
A clinical trial for the lens has started in India, and Dr. Roop expects sales to start in the Indian market by January 2021 with a plan to enter the contact lens market with a similar diffractive design at some point as well.
Ms. Tammenoms Bakker said she was impressed by Dr. Roop’s presentation hitting on all elements of the judge’s criteria and said it was helpful to hear the comparison with this lens technology to other trifocal technology on the market.
Mr. Mazzo said for the amount of money the company is seeking, he would suggest focusing on the IOL market and not adding the contact lens. “When you add this contact lens, the concern is that you take away from your IOL,” Mr. Mazzo said.

Sunil Shah, FRCS(Ed), FRCOphth
Company/concept: Photon Therapeutics Ltd.
Mentor: John Berdahl, MD

Corneal infections cause a multitude of problems that have significant visual implications, Prof. Shah said in his pitch.
“As a cornea specialist, I see corneal infections all the time. They can cause a multitude of problems … all leading to visual problems,” Prof. Shah said
Use of ultraviolet light is a well-known sterilization technique. Prof. Shah described how his concept—a handheld UV-C light delivery device—treats corneal infections in 15 seconds. It is repeatable and can be used alone or in conjunction with conventional treatments. Prof. Shah said UV-C light is very effective, kills all known germs (a 100% kill rate in studies) without antibiotic resistance and no damage to healthy cells at the dosage used.
In terms of market size, Prof. Shah said there are up to 300,000 corneal infections annually in the U.S. In the developing world, India for example, there are about 2 million per year causing monocular blindness, he said. There is also a veterinary application that has a market size of 10 times that of the human market. Patents have been submitted for even wider indications for human use, which will expand the indications by a magnitude of order.
Prof. Shah said that the costs will vary per market, but it may be possible for the device to be free with just license fees for use. He expects the device to complete human donor cornea studies and gain approval to begin human studies by fall 2022. Veterinary studies will start in spring 2021.
He is looking for $2 million in capital to start followed by an additional $8 million. Prof. Shah said he hopes some of this funding will come from humanitarian sources.
During discussion with the judges, Dr. Lindstrom asked if this device could ever be self-administered. Prof. Shah said given that distance and light dosage needs to be precise, at this point it needs to be managed by a healthcare professional. Mr. Mazzo said Prof. Shah might want to consider pursuing the veterinary angle before human treatments because it is cash pay.
Prof. Shah said that he envisions this device to be a standard-of-care instrument/treatment in every eyecare provider’s office.

And the winner is …

• First $25,000: Prof. Shah with Photon Therapeutics Ltd
• Second $15,000: Dr. Nankani with Bynocs
• Third $5,000: Dr. Roop with the EDGE-less Diffractive Lens
“We look forward to the third Winning Pitch Challenge next year,” Dr. Holland said. “The program returns live at the 2021 ASCRS Annual Meeting in San Francisco. We expect more outstanding and innovative ideas to be presented.”
“If you have an idea, go to Winningpitchchallenge.net, learn about the process, and submit your idea,” Dr. Thompson said. “We are here to help you.”

Winning Pitch

Challenge honorable mentions
•Ahmed Al-Ghou, MD, CSI Dry Eye
•Sean McCafferty, MD, Conexus Lens
•Brian Shafer, magnetic tarsorrhaphy


: eholland@holprovision.com
Lindstrom: rllindstrom@mneye.com
Link: bill@williamjlink.com
Mazzo: mazjim@me.com
Nankani: drnankani@gmail.com
Roop: prakhyatfamous@gmail.com
Shah: sunilshah@nhs.net
Tammenoms Bakker: jbakker@longitudecapital.com
Thompson: vance.thompson@vancethompsonvision.com

Winning Pitch Challenge goes virtual Winning Pitch Challenge goes virtual
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