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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Biolase CEO Laser-Focused on Boosting Sales

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Despite being a public company in its 38th year of business, Biolase Inc. CEO John Beaver believes his dental medical device firm is very much still a startup.

That’s certainly how he approached the company when he took the helm in 2020, as he sought to diversify its product offerings, bulk up revenue and restore its reputation among investors.  

The Foothill Ranch-based company (Nasdaq: BIOL) develops and manufactures laser devices that allow dentists to perform a host of minimally invasive surgical procedures.

According to Beaver, Biolase sells more dental lasers than any other firm in the world, to 80 countries.

Just 7% of dental practices in the U.S. have this technology; within that group, Biolase lasers make up 60% of the total market, according to the company.

Industry Potential  

Biolase’s potential is what attracted Beaver—a native Texan who holds an accounting degree from the University of Texas and no previous experience in the dental business—to the company.

Beaver previously spent about 25 years at agriculture firm Monsanto Company in Texas, and another decade at various solar companies.

When he joined Biolase in 2017, he thought it was “unbelievable” that he never heard of what he refers to as the world leader in selling and manufacturing dental lasers, and that it “hadn’t taken off more than it has.”

Biolase employs 161 people globally, the majority of whom work at its two Southern California locations: its 12,000-square-foot headquarters in Foothill Ranch and a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Corona.

It also operates an office in India and another facility in Floss, Germany.

Says Beaver: “What better place is there to have a dental facility than in a town called Floss?”

Dental Devices

Biolase is best known for its all-tissue laser, the Waterlase iPlus, and its soft tissue laser, the Epic X. Both are industry bestsellers, the company says.

The FDA-approved Waterlase—which uses a combination of water and laser energy to perform most procedures currently performed using drills, scalpels, and other traditional dental instruments for cutting soft and hard tissue—is featured in about 10,000 dental practices out of roughly 180,000 in the U.S.

“We have this great technology that everybody should want and need,” he said. “Traditional surgeries leave patients unable to eat for days and on opioids.

“With our technology, they’ll be eating a hamburger the same day.”

A father of four with a sixth grandchild on the way, Beaver believes Biolase devices eliminate a lot of “dental drama’” around dentist visits for kids. It allows dentists to perform 95% of cavity preps without a shot.

Biolase isn’t just a laser developer.

This year, it released its first microfluidic irrigation device for root canals: the EdgePro, which eradicates about 99% of bacteria, compared to traditional root canal procedures that clean out about 50%.

A “direct competitor” with another OC firm’s product, Laguna Hills-based Sonendo’s GentleWave System (see story), the EdgePro received FDA clearance last December and officially commercialized the first quarter of 2022, he said.

“A lot of investors and analysts ask me who our major competitor is. It’s dentists willing to spend on new technology,” Beaver said.

Building Biolase Back Up

Since going public in the early 1990s, Biolase’s stock price has been volatile.

In the early 2000s, its shares topped $93 apiece, putting its valuation over the $1 billion mark for a short period.

Since then, the company’s seen numerous executive shake-ups and company pivots. Its headquarters have moved from San Clemente to Irvine to Lake Forest over that time.

As of last week, the company’s stock traded around 31 cents, giving it a valuation in the $50 million range.

The company risks being delisted from the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in May if its stock price doesn’t close at or above $1 per share for a minimum of 10 consecutive days.

Beaver in part attributes the plunge to a change in the company’s shareholder base over the past two years from two entities to mostly retail investors.

The company has also “been around for a while and has a history of not performing and hitting expectations,” he acknowledged.

Some market players have questioned the viability of laser technology in dental practices—such as claims that these lasers have a high failure rate in procedures like root canals—a challenge that Beaver is working to address.

“A lot of investors have known about Biolase much longer than I have,” he said. “It’s a different company today, and I’m keenly focused on making sure we build back up that reputation and confidence.”

Revenue Up

Beaver’s goals for Biolase gained steam in 2021.

Fourth-quarter revenue came in at $12.4 million, up 46% from the year prior, while annual revenue was $39.2 million, up 72% from 2020, when the dental industry was battered from the pandemic.

2021 revenue was up nearly 4% from the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

Beaver expects 2022 to be “even better,” and for the company to reach profitability by 2023. It posted a net loss of $16.1 million last year.

Every 1% increase in adoption brings $50 million of revenue per year, Beaver said, which means Biolase doesn’t have to get to 100%, or even 50% adoption, in order to be “hugely successful.”

He also believes lasers are becoming the standard of care across healthcare—such as corrective eye surgery—but market adoption and patient awareness take time.

“LASIK was an overnight success, 20 years in the making. They didn’t do it overnight,” he said.

“My goal is to have you know exactly what I know. Knowing what I know, I would never let my loved ones go to a non-laser dentist.” 

Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp is a staff reporter and occasional photojournalist for the Orange County Business Journal. Her beats include — but are not limited to — healthcare, startups, and education. While pursuing her bachelors in literary journalism at UC Irvine, she interned for New York-based magazine Narratively Inc., wrote for Costa Mesa-based lifestyle magazine Locale, and covered the underground music scene for two SoCal-based music publications. She is an unwavering defendant of the emdash and the Oxford comma.

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