May 5, 2018 | Abby Phillips

DURHAM — Camras Vision Inc, a glaucoma treatment device startup that just completed funding of $5.7 million, will be seeking a Series B funding in 2019 of approximately $15 million.

The $15 million the company hopes to raise will help drive the Camras Shunt through U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval and help either commercialize or sell the business.

In April, the company completed its $5.7 million Series A funding.

In addition, the NC Biotechnology Center loaned the company $500,000, and Camras Vision also has grant support from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Chief Executive Officer Ray Krauss said, “We now have the funding necessary to complete several important clinical trials.” He added that the company would likely be acquired after receiving FDA approval.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, affecting 4 million in the United States and a projected 80 million people worldwide by 2020, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Camras Vision i­­s currently developing a glaucoma therapy that is intended to not only circumvent the complications present with glaucoma surgery but also to provide ophthalmologists with the first tool that can stop the progression of glaucoma.

Glaucoma, which is a chronic optic nerve disease, is treated by reducing eye pressure. However, one in 10 people receiving treatment still experience vision loss.

There is currently no drug or surgical treatment that provides predictable target pressure control.

RISK TO VISION

Physicians must use an imprecise combination of multiple therapies to attempt to achieve the target pressure goal, which risks the patient’s remaining vision.

The Camras device was developed by Carl Camras and his daughter, Chief Scientific Officer Lucinda Camras.

Carl Camras­­ was a prominent glaucoma researcher and surgeon and is one of the creators of the leading drug treatment for glaucoma, called latanoprost.

Based on surgical complications he observed and the limitations of drug therapy he developed the Camras Shunt, which drains aqueous humor externally, avoiding complications and increasing success.

CLINICAL TRIALS

The money raised will be used to fund clinical trials and to support the Camras’ staff, which currently consists of five full-time employees.

Camras Vision is gearing up to begin its second of four clinical trials, which will start intermittently through the first quarter of 2019.

The first clinical trial began in late 2016 in the Philippines, with the second trial beginning next month in the Dominican Republic.

According to Krauss, two additional trials are being planned, including one in Europe, and a small study in the United States.

ORIGINAL FUNDING

Multiple North Carolina-based investors participated in the original funding, including the Triangle Venture Alliance, which is a partnership among Duke University, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University angel groups.

“Researchers and scientists from universities across the Triangle region often join forces to collaborate on innovations,” said John Glushik, managing director of the Duke Angel Network, in a statement.

“Through the Triangle Venture Alliance, angel and investor networks from all these universities can also team up to provide critical support and funding for disruptive technologies such as the Camras Shunt,” added Glushik.

VCapital and InFocus Capital Partners led the round along with Triangle Venture Alliance, which had invested earlier. Other backers include IMAF Coastal Plain, and Pilot Mountain Ventures plus some additional new angel investors.

“We are pleased to have VCapital, InFocus Capital Partners, and TVA participating in our Series A financing, in addition to the ongoing commitment of our current investors,” said Krauss, last month.

“Our first in human trial overseas has been underway for the past 18 months and has shown encouraging preliminary results. Product refinements will continue as we move forward with additional clinical trial sites.”

Camras has three issued U.S. patents, and has applied for five more for its technology.

Its international patents protect the company’s intellectual property in all major countries where the product will be sold.

The company recently hired two more employees to help drive growth.

It will soon add a vice president of product development and engineering, who will help drive the product through FDA approval, and a senior director of clinical affairs, who will control the clinical trials. This will bring the company’s employment up to seven.

Camras won the Emerging Company Award at SEBIO’s 19th Annual Investor and Partnering Forum last November.

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