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Biophotas’ Growth Lighting Up

The future looks bright for Anaheim’s Biophotas Inc., a leading light in Orange County’s growing aesthetics industry.

The 9-year-old device maker, which makes a variety of low-level light therapy products founded on NASA-developed technology, enters 2020 pursuing federal approvals for four new areas of treatment, ranging from combatting hair loss to treating nerve damage.

In the meantime, the company continues to tackle new markets with its existing Celluma product line. Celluma offers a range of devices for treatment in pain management, wrinkle prevention, managing acne breakouts and wound healing via the application of specific wavelengths of light to tissue.

Biophotas pulled in about $10 million in sales last year. It forecasts about 40% to 50% growth in 2020 based on its current sales channels into existing markets, Chief Executive Patrick Johnson told a crowd of several hundred during Octane’s inaugural Aesthetics Technology Summit on Jan. 10 at Balboa Bay Resort.

Secret Sauce

Johnson’s company was touted at ATS as a success story for the growing local aesthetics industry, having gone through Octane’s SBDC Launchpad accelerator for business and life sciences companies some eight years ago.

Biophotas’ products incorporate technology developed by NASA in the 1990s, aimed at creating types of therapy to protect the body at the cellular level from the effects of a zero-gravity environment.

The company’s base technology is in the public realm, Johnson explained, but its specialty is its “delivery of light energy at the surface of the skin” and its “flexible, shape-taking devices that reduce cost and maintain the efficacy of energy delivery.”

Celluma products deliver a combination of blue, red and near-infrared light energy, to treat specific conditions at various layers in the skin.

Johnson describes it as “photosynthesis for mammals,” a process that triggers the regulation, reregulation and upregulation of cellular energy in the body.

Blast Off

Biophotas used its $350,000 seed round to develop its technology platform, which was then used to “get new products and penetrate new markets,” Johnson said.

The company went on to raise a $3.2 million Series A round over the next three years from high net-worth individuals and two family offices. It hasn’t sought funding since then.

Biophotas secured six approvals from the FDA for use in pain management and three in skincare from 2013 through 2017. The company said it became profitable at the end of 2016.

The addressable market for the company’s light therapy products is around $2 billion to $3 billion, not including medical aesthetics or wound healing, Johnson added.

The company is now prepared to return a significant amount of capital raised back to its shareholders this year, according to Johnson.

Eyeing Aesthetics

The company plans to grow in the aesthetics sector, where licensed aestheticians, also known as beauticians, make up the largest share of Biophotas’ customers.

Johnson said the company plans to pursue FDA clearance for hair rejuvenation through substantial equivalency, a process whereby safety is determined by comparing the device to a similar, more traditional method of treatment.

If approved, the Celluma will be the first LED device without a laser component that can be used for hair rejuvenation, he said.

Biophotas is also working toward FDA clearance for the treatment of capsular contracture, a condition that results following breast augmentation; scar tissue becomes hard and contracts around the implant.

Other companies have tried to prevent the condition with textured implants, which reduce the likelihood of scarring, other problems have arisen.

For example, Allergan’s Natrelle Biocell textured implants were recalled in September due to risks associated with cancer of the immune system.

Treating or preventing capsular contracture would be a huge opportunity for the company, Johnson added, and preliminary clinical trials reveal good results so far, he said.

Wounds, Next

The company has had its sights on wound healing for several years. While getting U.S. approval is still ongoing, Biophotas already has medical CE markings in the EU to treat dermal wounds, including diabetic lesions.

In the United States, the company is in preliminary conversations with the Beckman Laser Institute and the Department of Dermatology at the University of California-Irvine to conduct a study for how its products treat dermal wound healing.

In addition, Biophotas has an Institutional Review Board approved study prepared for a diabetic peripheral neuropathy indication to treat nerve damage, a precursor to another indication for diabetic lesions.

Bright Future

As Biophotas awaits additional approvals, the company continues to push forward on growth, here and abroad.

The company will continue to focus its efforts on market penetration in Europe and Australia, Johnson said.

Biophotas opened a sales office in the U.K. at the beginning of 2019, just before Brexit added complexity to dealings in the country. Johnson said that the company is still waiting to see how things will play out for businesses operating in the U.K.

With the forecasted growth, Biophotas expects to add 10 employees to its 11,000-square-foot office space in Anaheim this year.

It’s likely the company will outgrow its headquarters by year-end, Johnson added, but it won’t leave Orange County.

“Our roots run deep here,” he said.

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