Orange County Business Journal

Device Maker WaveTec Gets $15.9 Million Investment

Vita Reed Thursday, May 12, 2011

Aliso Viejo eye device maker WaveTec Vision Systems Inc. said Thursday that it received $15.9 million in a fourth round of funding.

WaveTec’s lead product, ORange, is used in surgeries that replace cataracts with intraocular lenses. It works by analyzing a line that gives a 3-D view of the eye’s surface and can be mounted directly on a surgical microscope.

The company will use its new funding for several purposes, including expanding the commercialization and adoption of ORange, said Tom Frinzi, WaveTec’s chief executive, in a release.

Versant Venture Management LLC, a venture capital firm with an office in Newport Beach and an existing WaveTec investor, led the funding. Accuitive Medical Ventures LLC of Atlanta and Menlo Park’s De Novo Ventures, two other existing investors, participated.

They were joined by new investor Gund Investment Corp. of Princeton, N.J.

WaveTec started in 1997 and existed on angel funding until Versant made its initial investment in the company back in 2005.

Versant made its first investment in WaveTec after it learned that wavefront analysis technology could be used in eye surgeries.

“The distinctive element of the WaveTec opportunity, in our opinion, is the clinical impact we believe it can have,” said Charles Warden, a Newport Beach-based Versant managing director.

At the recent American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery’s symposium in San Diego, clinical data presentations showed that ORange was the best system for determining the power of intraocular lenses in post-refractive eyes.

WaveTec has raised about $54 million in venture capital backing.

The company’s devices don’t compete with other big eye device companies such as Santa Ana’s Abbott Medical Optics Inc.; Switzerland’s Alcon Inc., which has operations in Irvine or Rochester, N.Y.’s Bausch & Lomb Inc., with an Aliso Viejo operation.

Frinzi, a 30-year-plus medical device industry veteran, has said that those companies “are potentially strategic acquirers of this technology – it’s very complimentary to their cataract portfolio.”

Other wavefront devices, including one that Abbott Medical acquired in 2007 when it was then-independent Advanced Medical Optics Inc., are more geared to laser surgery rather than cataract surgery.

WaveTec began to sell ORange about two years ago in the U.S. The device also has European regulatory approval, and the company has said they plan to start selling it in Europe later this year or in early 2012.

ORange is sold directly to doctors, and WaveTec provides support to them.

The company has declined to give a revenue estimate.

Besides its most recent venture backing, WaveTec has been able to nab several sizable rounds of funding in recent years.

In 2009, WaveTec raised $20 million in a round that included Versant, Accuitive and De Novo.

That trio also participated in a $13 million round in 2007.

Separately, WaveTec said that it introduced a new upgrade to ORange that has more than 20 new functions, including one that allows surgeons to manage a patient’s astigmatism during cataract procedures.