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Ivantis Keeps Eyes on Well-Being of Employees, Patients

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Irvine-based ophthalmologic device maker Ivantis Inc. has witnessed what its chief executive is calling one of the most successful U.S. medical device product launches in 20 years.

Following U.S. market approval for its Hydrus Microstent, which lowers intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients undergoing planned cataract surgery, the company posted $26 million in first-year sales in 2019.

The firm achieved one of the five-fastest growing 18-month trajectories of any venture-backed medical device company in the past two decades, CEO Dave Van Meter told the Business Journal last week.

“Take care of the patient first, and everything else will follow,” Van Meter said.

“Throughout my career, I’ve remained true to that. [Ivantis] always puts our patients first and that leads us to operate with integrity and continue to earn the trust of doctors.”

It’s not just the patients that are happy.

Ivantis took the No. 15 spot on this week’s Business Journal list of Best Places to Work in the category of midsize companies with 50 to 249 employees.

The close-knit company has a “family culture,” Van Meter said, where employees gather for baby showers, birthdays and other events.

Ivantis has a half court adjacent to its warehouse in Irvine, where basketball games often result in great fun for the employees.

“Everyone is equal when you play a game of PIG,” he said.

Momentum

The company is planning to hire about 60 employees in the next 12 months as it expects momentum to resume as the pandemic eases.

“We expect to continue to have a robust growth rate,” said Van Meter. “Clinicians are enthusiastically adopting our technology. We have a very high retention rate, and our customers and doctors are very satisfied with the outcomes.

While most companies with minimally invasive glaucoma surgery devices stop collecting data for the Food and Drug Administration after a year or two, Ivantis provides data for five years following its clinical trials.

“We’ve made the organizational choice to bear the additional cost, which is not insignificant, of following patients out to five years. As a result, we’ve been afforded the opportunity to share results with the clinical community that no other company can offer.

“Our greatest strength as a company is our clinical rigor,” he said.

Most importantly, Van Meter said four-year results showed 2.1% of Hydrus Microstent patients required a subsequent, invasive glaucoma surgery compared to 6% of cataract surgery-only patients.

Results also revealed that two-thirds of patients can live medication-free four years after implantation.

Five-year results for the Hydrus Microstent are expected to be released next year.

Glaucoma impacts an estimated 80 million patients worldwide; the company’s Hydrus Stent has been implanted in more than 30,000 patients over the last 10 years. 

Partners Aligned 

Ivantis was launched in 2007 by New Enterprise Associates, an investment firm with $20 billion assets under management.

Van Meter was tapped to lead the organization in 2008, after holding several general management and marketing roles with Abbott’s vascular division.

The founding team decided to headquarter the company in the ophthalmic capital of Irvine.

One of the reasons Van Meter took the position was the “opportunity to build something with a team from scratch, where everyone in the company has the same focus.”

Ivantis has raised about $134 million in private funds to date, with participation from RA Capital Management, Mérieux Développement, New Enterprise Associates, Delphi Ventures, Foresite Capital, Ascension Health Ventures, EDBI, GBS Ventures, Vertex Ventures, and MemorialCare Innovation Fund.

“Our investors are keen on a return, but we’ve been fortunate that we have patient investors who have encouraged us to build the business the right way,” Van Meter said.

“We’ll keep building the business one patient at a time, one surgeon at a time.”

Small Biz Culture

Since the pandemic, Ivantis has employed a staggered schedule and adopted flexible policies for vulnerable workers. It also signed up for a companywide One Medical membership, which ensures employees can quickly receive a COVID-19 test.

In the earlier days of the pandemic, the entire team took pay cuts to ensure everyone could keep their jobs.

“We had a companywide meeting, and the senior management team made it clear we would take significant cuts. We would live or die as a team. 90 days later, I’ve gotten more emails than ever from people telling me how happy they are to be part of the company, knowing the sacrifices we’ve all made for the good of the team.”

As Ivantis continues to focus on commercialization in the U.S., where it’s only trained about 1,000 surgeons out of the 8,000 or so that perform cataract surgeries, it aims to keep its culture.

“We hope to hold on to the best parts of an early-stage company as we grow,” Van Meter said.

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