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Seeding the Future of Eye Care
Alcon Seed Fund plays a crucial role in our dynamic innovation ecosystem.

Looking across the eye care landscape, one might wonder just how we’ll address the collective, unmet needs our world—and our precious eyes—face.

The rapidly aging global population will lead to an increased prevalence of vision conditions, including presbyopia, cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, and more. All the while, environmental and technological factors pose additional threats to the eyes of both young and old.

Leading-edge technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and novel drug delivery systems will all play a crucial role in the future of the industry. Meanwhile, incremental innovation in diagnostics, disease monitoring, intra- and extra-ocular devices, and pharmaceuticals will continue bolstering how we address urgent eye care issues.

As the global leader in eye care, Alcon recognizes the need to support a cohesive ecosystem comprised of both disruptive and incremental innovation from internal and external sources. In 2022, this very commitment gave life to the Alcon Seed Fund (ASF), an innovation catalyst that has now funded industry-shaping ideas. It was designed to complement and support Alcon’s existing mechanisms for external innovation, which include the Alcon Research Institute and Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) opportunities.

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Accelerating viable innovation for the future

The Alcon Seed Fund connects our company to early-stage ideas created from external companies that are poised to tackle the world’s most pressing eye care challenges.

Typically, these early-stage entities have limited clinical data and relatively small workforces and capabilities. What else do they have? Potentially transformative mechanisms to address unmet needs and a desire to push the boundaries of science.

“At Alcon, we believe a good idea can come from outside our own walls,” says Rob Scott, Vice President, Intraocular Devices R&D at Alcon. “ASF engages with companies that oftentimes have an idea and a patent filed, but limited lab data and potentially no clinical data. What we’re looking to do through ASF is find compelling ideas founded on good science and support the next level of research and development and see if we can help further grow their idea.”

By connecting with these entrepreneurs at an early stage, Alcon establishes a platform for mutual engagement, wherein viable candidates can tap into our robust network of funding, with potential to grow and develop the relationship as the idea is matured and de-risked. In turn, Alcon is able to expand the roots of our innovation network deeper and wider.

How does the process work?

Startups and entrepreneurs seeking investment and guidance would go through a triaging process to determine if their proposed technology and company fits within the defined investment criteria and priorities, including high clinical need, strong scientific foundation, and a credible management team.

Candidates are then invited to a “fast pitch” meeting where they present their company and technology. When ASF chooses to invest in a company, a milestone-based plan is agreed, typically lasting 6-18 months with periodic reporting back to Alcon.

“Through ASF, we’re identifying early, promising ideas founded in differentiated scientific approaches to addressing critical unmet needs,” says Rafael Lopes, Global Head of R&D Strategy, External Innovation and Finance at Alcon. “We participate with investments that allow the partnering companies to carry out their work until the next critical inflection point. If we see consistent advancements, we will find ways to continue investing to fuel that innovation.”

Impacting care through the power of innovation

The benefit of pursuing these ideas has a profound impact for patients as well. Not only does it help fortify our innovation ecosystem in eye care, but also it allows innovation to reach the market potentially faster.

“It provides us with visibility to what is happening in the field,” said Rafael Lopes. “Most of the time, these companies aren’t just excited about the funding; what really makes a difference for them is the recognition that comes from having Alcon sponsoring their ideas.”

In the past year alone, the Alcon Seed Fund has considered over 400 companies and executed approximately 15 deals. ASF is powering the innovation ecosystem to find innovative ways to address the most relevant unmet needs, because we fundamentally believe it is through innovation that value gets created to all stakeholders.

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