New VC fund to set sights on Israeli tech for eye diseases

Dr. Barak Azmon, an ophthalmologist and serial entrepreneur, is convinced Israel can become a ‘meaningful player’ in vision-related developments

Dr. Barak Azmon, an ophthalmologist and serial entrepreneur, is convinced Israel can become a “meaningful player” in technologies relating to eyesight.

He and his partners are looking to raise some $75 million-$100 million in funds from foreign and local entities to invest in medical devices, drugs and vision care tools — like adaptive contact lenses — that will tackle eye diseases and help patients see better.

“We want to set up a VC fund, the first and only one in Israel dedicated to ophthalmology,” Azmon said in an interview from his central Tel Aviv office.”

“We want to enlarge the field in Israel. There is a lot of potential here — we have good universities, a world-renowned ophthalmic community, strong data and artificial intelligence abilities that can combine nicely in this field.”


The idea, he said, is to create a hub that will incubate and grow new startups and technologies, which will then be sold on to large multinationals. “We are good at R&D, that is our strength,” he said. “But we are also willing to take the companies all the way to growth, if needed. We are aiming to have five to seven new companies in three to four years.”

The hub will finance and mentor new ideas by the fund’s partners, and possibly developments of a variety of entrepreneurs who come to the hub with an interesting concept as well. “We will be looking at the field and seeing what kind of developments the industry is interested in,” he said.

The fund, which doesn’t have a name yet, has already got commitments from foreign enterprises, which Azmon did not name. “We still need more funding,” he said, revealing that the fund now has two US partners and three Israeli partners.

The initiative comes as the Israeli government is trying to position Israel as a global leader in digital healthcare, allocating NIS 1 billion ($283 million) to a program that aims to create a digital database of medical files of some 100,000 residents within the next five years.

The ophthalmic equipment market is expected to reach $58.44 billion by 2023, fueled by a rapid growth of the geriatric population, a rising incidence of eye diseases, technological advancements in ophthalmic devices and increasing government programs to control visual impairment, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.

There some 60 active Israeli companies in the ophthalmology field, “a significantly high number relative to the size of the country,” said Sharon Kaplinsky, the founder and CEO of Star Tree Ventures, an Israel-based business development and corporate finance consultancy that specializes in life sciences. Of these firms, some 25 are device companies, 17 are in therapeutics and 21 specialize in digital health.

“Multinational companies and investors recognize Israel as a global innovation hub in the field,” said Kaplinsky.

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