Dr. Daemon McClunan, an award-winning ophthalmologist, specializing in treating glaucoma, started LIQID Medical, a company that makes new eye implants that can save your sight. He is the youngest person who has ever been allowed to join the South African Glaucoma Society’s executive committee.
The executive director of the SAB Foundation, Bridgit Evans, says, “We are proud to be one of the first foundations in the country to use our endowment for impact investments.” “The goal is to use traditional sources of capital to help find solutions to problems like inequality, unemployment, and poverty.”
Evans says that the SAB Foundation was set up as part of SAB’s plan to help black people get ahead in business. The foundation receives dividends twice a year. “We will use the money from those investments to pay for the deal, giving us a big stake in this business.”
As the winner of the foundation’s Disability Empowerment Awards in 2019, LIQID Medical was given R1.3 million in funding and mentorship. The company is based in Cape Town, becoming a major technology hub. They used the grant to do their first tests on people, which went very well.
The patented devices use a naturally occurring body part to help find the most clinically effective, cost-saving, and quality-of-life-improving solutions for glaucoma, which is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Currently, three core devices are being made: the OptiShunt, the importer, and the iFlow.
Since 2015, McClunan has been working on making these devices. After its most recent investment of R9.5 million (about $556 000) from the Technology and Innovation Agency of South Africa, the R30 million equity funding from the SAB Foundation will be used over the next three years for technology development, regulatory accreditation, clinical trials, and IP portfolio development.
McClunan says, “Our goal is to be ready to market by the end of the funding tranche.”
After the investment, it should take three years for the product to be commercialized and put on the market. This is because the company needs to finish more clinical trials and get approval from international regulators by the target date.
IDF Capital’s research shows that the global market for glaucoma treatments is worth $8.2 billion per year and is growing at a rate of 6.9% per year. There are 76 million people in the world who have glaucoma, and the sales of devices bring in $1.5 billion every year. Also, one million glaucoma surgeries are done every year.
The best way to treat glaucoma is to use a tube-shunt device to drain extra fluid from the eye through the traditional drainage pathway. Up until now, there has never been a treatment that worked better. LIQID Medical has come up with three patents for glaucoma implants. Each one is designed to fill a clear gap in the market, and they will all be made in South Africa.
“According to Evans, “the ultimate purpose of our foundation is to encourage social innovators in the development of their businesses, which will, in turn, strengthen the local economy and create jobs.” This investment represents a substantial potential to channel cash into other investments to achieve measurable beneficial social and economic effects in addition to financial rewards.