Skai Vision Institute

Skai Ventures is a Hawaii based technology accelerator that specializes in driving unique, globally sourced technologies from academia and development laboratories to commercial scale.  One of its technology projects is the development of an artificial cornea for corneal transplants.  In connection with the eventual worldwide distribution of its artificial cornea, Skai Ventures plans to establish centers of excellence for eye care throughout the world.  The first of these is the Skai Vision Institute, a Center of Excellence for eye care, located in Honolulu, Hawaii.  One of the first steps in the development of the Skai Vision Institute is the Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii.  The surgery center provides the infrastructure for Skai Vision Institute, which plans to offer best-in-class visual restoration procedures, of all subspecialties, to a global audience.

The Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii will fulfill a pressing medical need for the health care industry in Hawaii.  As Hawaii’s population increases in size and age, the number of required ophthalmic surgical procedures will escalate significantly, putting pressure on existing medical facilities.  The surgery center and its physicians will be able to provide superior service and meet the growing need throughout Hawaii for quality, specialized eye care.

The Skai Vision Institute will expand the scope of the surgery center from Hawaii to the rest of the world.  There are 314 million visually impaired people worldwide, a number that is continuously increasing as populations grow and age.  These demographic trends have intensified demand for a host of ophthalmic procedures, including corneal transplants.  Meanwhile, a chronic shortage of cornea donors has created an enormous worldwide backlog of patients requiring this sight-restoring surgery.  Furthermore, the patient backlog for relatively straightforward procedures such as cataract extraction, retinal injections, and glaucoma shunts can exceed one year even in developed economies.  The confluence of global supply and demand issues has created an enormous opportunity within the ophthalmic health care industry.

Skai Vision Institute will leverage Hawaii’s strength as a tourist destination to bring additional patients to the Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii.  It is difficult to imagine a more profound, lasting impression than opening one’s eyes for the first time after vision restoring surgery to see the beauty of Hawaii.

As the largest ophthalmic facility in the State of Hawaii, Skai Vision Insitute’s plans to expand market share to include much of Asia and the Pacific Rim will enable the Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii to take advantage of the growing demand for eye procedures required by the aging population.

The Skai Vision Institute will benefit from the reputation of Skai Ventures as a leader in ophthalmic innovation and its relationship with several of the most prominent ophthalmologists in the world.  The Institute will also benefit from two unique advantages:

  • ACornea implantn exclusive commitment from VisionShare, the largest cornea donor bank in the U.S., for a supply of up to 5,000 corneas per year for transplantation
  •  Access to the world’s most advanced artificial cornea technology, which has successfully completed proof-of-concept pilot clinical trials (a technology developed by Skai Ventures affiliate Cellular Bioengineering Inc.’s portfolio company, Eyegenix™, LLC)

VisionShare provides half of all donated corneas used for transplant in the U.S. and 35% of all exported corneas.  These 5,000 corneas represent 5% of all annual cornea transplants performed globally and constitute five times the number of annual cornea donors in Japan.  Access to this cornea supply can enable the Skai Vision Institute to become one of the three largest corneal transplant centers in the world.  Commitments have already been obtained from top surgeons and prominent opinion leaders in ophthalmology to lend their names and endorsements to the Institute.

Meanwhile, Skai Ventures affiliate CBI’s Eyegenix has the exclusive worldwide rights to commercialize a synthetic biopolymer that closely resembles the body’s native cornea. Once implanted, the polymer integrates with native tissue, restoring sight to the patient without the need for a donor.  In the final quarter of 2007 in a European university clinical trial, the Eyegenix bioengineered cornea became the first of its kind to undergo human clinical testing.  The results of this pilot clinical trial were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine (Volume 2, Issue 46, August 25, 2010).  The publication profiled two-year results related to Eyegenix’s unique bioengineered cornea being transplanted into ten visually impaired patients who were on the transplantation wait list.  All patients regained nerve sensation and tear formation without the prolonged use of anti-rejection drugs.  Six of the patients improved to best corrected post-operative acuity of 20/40 with contact lenses.

Once the Eyegenix  polymer attains regulatory approval, the number of transplants performed will no longer be limited to the 5,000 donor corneas per year accessible through VisionShare.  Case load would only be limited by demand for cornea transplants and other ophthalmic procedures.  Skai Ventures is also forming a non-profit arm to deliver sight-restoring procedures to children and the less advantaged from around the world.

Leveraging demographics, location, unique supply arrangements and breakthrough technology, the Skai Vision Institute is poised to become a world-leading provider of focused ophthalmic care to a growing global patient population.  Creating the Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii, an ambulatory surgery center dedicated to ophthalmology, is the first step to pursuing this broader mission.

The Skai Vision Institute plans to establish arrangements with several prominent travel agents in Asia and resorts and service providers in Honolulu about sharing revenue from patients that come to Oahu for ophthalmologic procedures.  In partnering with select travel agents and local resorts, the Institute anticipates offering patients an all-inclusive medical care, travel and accommodations package that provides them with the comfort of a Hawaiian vacation and the promise of renewed sight.

The collaboration between the Skai Vision Institute and the Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii ensures a continuous new flow of patients from not only Hawaii but all across the world.