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Startup developing ‘world’s first’ synthetic cornea raises $25 million

EyeYon’s flagship product would enable doctors to treat fluid buildup in cornea in a minimally invasive way, avoiding use of human tissue

An illutrative image of a woman's eye (eternalcreative; iStock by Getty Images)
An illutrative image of a woman's eye (eternalcreative; iStock by Getty Images)

Israeli ophthalmic start-up EyeYon Medical has raised $25 million in Series C funding to expand clinical trials for what the company says is the world’s first synthetic cornea implant that will help doctors treat chronic corneal edema.

Corneal edema is a buildup of fluid in the cornea, the clear lens that helps focus light onto the back of the eye. EyeYon’s flagship product, the EndoArt, would enable doctors to treat the condition in a minimally invasive procedure that avoids the use of human tissue or corneal donations.

If swelling caused by corneal edema gets severe enough to damage vision, a surgery is needed to either replace the entire cornea or just the endothelial layer with healthy corneal tissues from a donor.

In a minimally invasive procedure, EyeYon’s implant attaches to the surface at the back of the cornea, replacing the dysfunctional tissue that leads to the flow of excess fluid in the cornea. This technology offers a safer solution to what is otherwise a vision-threatening condition, the startup said.

The artificial cornea implant developed by EyeYon (Idan Gross)

With more than 13 million people around the world waiting for a corneal transplant, the technology was developed in the hopes of ameliorating the shortage of corneal donations, which can leave people at risk for blindness.

Clinical trials of the implant are underway in Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. In Israel, trials are taking place at Soroka Medical Center, Rambam Health Care Campus, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Barzilai Medical Center.

This latest round of funding — led by participants such as Global Health Sciences (GHS) Fund (Quark Venture LP and GF Securities), BPC and existing investors Triventures, Rimonci, Pontifax and Diamond BioFund — brings the total amount raised by the company to $36 million.

“The overwhelming interest in joining our latest funding round reflects the confidence that investors have in our unique and disruptive technology,” said EyeYon co-founder and CEO Nahum Ferera.

EyeYon Medical team, March 2021 (Idan Gross)

Founded in 2011 by Ferera, Ofer Daphna and Arie Marcovich, EyeYon develops technology to treat issues in the ophthalmic world. The company has also developed a contact lens that acts as a therapeutic option for corneal conditions that require eye drop treatment, keeping eye medication inside a makeshift reservoir inside the lens for a longer period of time to maximize healing.

With the new funding, EyeYon is looking to expand clinical trials in the hopes of receiving regulatory approval in the US, Europe and China. In February 2020, EndoArt received a breakthrough device designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), helping to fast-track the technology’s approval.

The estimated rollout of the synthetic cornea is expected to be in 2022 in Europe, and in 2023-2024 in China and the US, the company said.

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