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Octane Closes Ophthalmology Venture Fund, Its First

Aliso Viejo-based technology and life sciences accelerator Octane closed its debut fund, which it launched a year ago to target opportunities in ophthalmology. The visionary venture fund didn’t meet its initial $50 million target; the organization said it now has the capacity to invest up to $30 million.

The fund has invested in four companies, and Octane plans to bring that up to about a dozen. Investments range from $500,000 to $5 million.

“[The fund] will be fully deployed in about 18 months. We are likely to close four more opportunities, two pharma and two devices,” said Jeffry Weinhuff, a managing partner at the fund. He previously served as chief executive and managing partner at Inflection Point Capital Management UK Ltd., a boutique asset-management firm in London.

Weinhuff said the fund is unique, in that it leverages its base of private investors, of whom many are doctor-investors—ophthalmologists with expertise in areas such as anterior segment, glaucoma and retina.

“We are not only in Orange County—the center of ophthalmology, with a rich, concentrated deal flow—but we also have 30 top doctors with deep market expertise [in] front- and back of the eye [diseases] that help us look for the best deals,” he said.

The fund’s doctor-investors make up its “key opinion leader ophthalmology partners,” a group that meets monthly to vet opportunities.

Current investments include Aliso Viejo-based RxSight, which makes intraocular lens technology.

It changed its name from Calhoun Vision Inc. this year. Three previously announced deals are IanTech in Reno, Nev., which manufactures a medical device that removes the hard center of a cataract during surgeries; Mynosys Cellular Devices Inc. in Fremont, which develops Zepto, a medical device that’s used in cataract surgeries that creates an opening in order to replace the natural lens with a plastic lens one; and Seattle-based SightLife, a provider of corneal tissue for transplants.

Terms weren’t disclosed, but more than $5 million has been deployed, according to company news releases.

The fund announced that it has invested $5 million in IanTech and Mynosys—which received $1 million each—and in SightLife Surgical. Octane is not a lead investor in any of the deals.

Local Preference

Weinhuff said the fund looks for later-stage opportunities, mostly in California. “We have a preference to do things locally, and we are looking for deals that are ripe for acquisition or go public within a couple years.”

Octane Chief Executive Bill Carpou, who said Octane’s role is to drive an innovation “ecosystem” in Orange County, said the organization and its fund wants to help grow companies, create jobs and bring in more capital.

Ophthalmic goods manufacturing activities contribute to 56,000 jobs in Southern California and pump approximately $12.5 billion into the California economy each year, according to an industry report.

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