We’re often asked, “why ophthalmology”? We enthusiastically respond with some variation of an answer that includes a combination of our deep domain expertise, market insights, technological breakthroughs and attractive investment returns. This specific strategy may be described by some as thematic investing in that we’ve identified eye care as a particular theme for investment. This would be an incomplete view. We decided to publish our thesis on the site to provide a more complete picture of our approach. Publishing an investment thesis is hardly a novel concept with well-known versions coming from Union Square Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz ('a16z'). This level of transparency provides a level of accountability that we embrace and ultimately believe will make us better investors.
In addition to having our initial insight that ophthalmology is an attractive field in which to invest, we wanted to be sure that this insight was durable and that it would continue such that it warranted the founding of our firm. To do that, we have spent significant time over the last 4 plus years discussing where the market is going over the next ten plus years. It was not sufficient for us to merely specify ophthalmology as a field meriting investment. We wanted to define our thesis such that every investment would be filtered through our long-term outlook. This would serve two purposes: it would make sure we were staying true to our initial insights and long-range views while preventing the potential for mission drift.
Of course our thesis, like our outlook, isn’t static. As the premises underlying our investment outlook continue to evolve, technology advances and markets develop we continue to revisit and revise our thesis to account for this new information. This is the fun part of our work, staying on top of breakthrough technologies and thinking critically about the future of vision care. We hope sharing this helps inform the market about our process and view. Our transparency will also keep us accountable.
You can read the full thesis here.
Over the last several months the press has been abuzz with the promising results of two recent, unrelated clinical studies. Each was the study of stem cell transplantation in patients with age-related macular degeneration (“AMD”). The first study to release results was conducted in London and the second was conducted in Los Angeles. The latter was performed at USC’s Roski Eye Institute at the Keck School of Medicine in conjunction with Regenerative Patch Technologies. Dr. Rahhal is a principle investigator in the USC / Regenerative Patch Technologies (funded by CIRM) and a co-author of the recent paper, covered here by the LA Times.
From the LA Times:
“In a very early clinical trial, researchers have implanted a stem cell “patch” to repair failing retinal cells in four patients with a condition called dry macular degeneration.
Three of the four patients who got the bioengineered implant — all of whom had lost their central field of vision and were legally blind — reported some lightening in the previously dark center of their visual field, according to a study published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The three also saw some improvement in their ability to see shapes and focus on letters or other objects directly in front of them.
In a span of roughly five months, one patient’s ability to identify letters on a vision chart improved by 17 characters.
“It is remarkable when people can start seeing again,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Amir H. Kashani of USC’s Roski Eye Institute at the Keck School of Medicine. Kashani conducted the trial with Dr. Mark S. Humayun, also a USC ophthalmologist, and a USC team that drew from many disciplines.
The modest improvements seen in this small group of patients offer hope in a field that has had nothing to offer patients yet, said Kashani, who is both an eye surgeon and stem cell scientist.
A treatment that would allow people with dry macular degeneration to look into the faces of loved one “would be the dream,” Kashani said. “I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Our team is extremely proud of Dr. Rahhal’s contributions to this breakthrough study. Dr Rahhal's group, Retina Vitreous Associates Medical Group in Los Angeles, is also involved in many retinal/macular clinical trials, including others involving stem cell technology. The importance of this research cannot be understated. The results of the study will inform future developments in vision restoration. We look forward to covering the insights gleaned from the ongoing research on our site and in our newsletter.