amras Vision, a North-Carolina base company developing a novel ocular implant to address refractory glaucoma, is the latest example of fundraising success among winners of Southeast BIO’s Early Stage Competition- now in its 20th year.
The company recently closed on $5.7M in equity funding in a Series A round led by VCapital, InFocus Capital Partners and Triangle Venture Alliance. The company’s novel device, known as the Camras Shunt, drains aqueous humor externally, avoiding scarring within the drainage site and potential failure associated with other incisional/shunt surgeries in glaucoma patients. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, and disproportionately impacts patients over 40.
The investment from InFocus provides unique validation, notes Ray Krauss, CEO of Camras, given the fund’s expertise in the space. InFocus maintains a 90% ophthalmic focus and is headed by two practicing ophthalmologists and includes ophthalmic industry veterans on its advisory board.
What stood out about Camras Vision that led to its win of the SEBIO Early Stage Competition, held during the 19th Annual Southeast BIO (SEBIO) Investor & Partner Forum? “Clearly, the combination of experienced management, progress against milestones to-date and a growing and largely unmet medical need,” notes Gerry Brunk of Lumira Ventures, who served as a member of the four-person judging panel.
Indeed, at the time of their participation in the Early Stage program, Camras Vision had raised $2.8M in non-dilutive financing and seen encouraging results in a first-in human trial conducted outside of the United States. Moreover, CEO Ray Krauss has more than 30 years of executive experience in the medical device industry, including both private and public companies.
“We see a mix of companies in the Early Stage program,” notes Early Stage Chair, Douglas Gooding. “Like Camras Vision, some are reasonably far along but have yet to raise their first institutional capital. Others are very early, often still managed by an academic founder and progressing with non-dilutive financing.” The important thing, notes Gooding, is that the company has a novel technology with a distinct advantage over competitors and significant market potential- as well as a founder or early management that can benefit from the mentoring provided as part of the Early Stage Program, which culminates in the competition itself- known as “the Shootout.”
To date, more than 180 companies have participated in the Early Stage program. And the winners of the Early Stage Competition are a distinguished group. The 2016 winner, North-Carolina based RFPi, closed on a $4M Series A the following year to progress development of its non-invasive surgical imaging platform technology licensed from East Carolina University. Collectively, the Early Stage and Main Stage companies participating in the SEBIO Investor & Partnering Forum have raised more than $3.5B in investment capital. The 20th annual event will be held this November 13-14th in Atlanta, Georgia.