Intralase Will Develop Laser Systems For Eye Surgery

November 21, 1997

ANN ARBOR, Mich.--The University of Michigan's Board of Regents has approved a license agreement for a new U-M company---IntraLase Corporation---which will develop and market a new generation of lasers for eye surgery and other high-precision medical applications. The company is being formed in collaboration with Escalon Medical Corporation of Skillman, N.J., with financing from the Enterprise Development Fund of Ann Arbor.

"IntraLase ophthalmic lasers will deliver extremely short pulses of light, which can cut within the delicate structures of the eye, such as the cornea, while avoiding damage to overlying or adjacent tissue---something not possible with current clinical laser technology," said Ron Kurtz, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the U-M Medical School and a co-founder of the company.

According to co-founder Tibor Juhasz, associate research scientist in the U-M Medical School's Kellogg Eye Center and the College of Engineering's Center for Ultrafast Optical Sciences (CUOS), IntraLase will develop its first products for refractive surgical procedures, which correct near-sightedness and other vision deficiencies. The company will then target glaucoma, cataract and dermatological surgery.

"IntraLase demonstrates the U-M's many strengths as a research university, especially its capacity to integrate new technology with basic research and turn it into a life-enhancing medical intervention," said Marvin G. Parnes, U-M assistant vice president for research. "Combining U-M intellectual property with complementary patents and technology from Escalon will expedite bringing this exciting technology to the public."

"This collaboration between Escalon and U-M makes best use of our technology and has a high probability of future success," said Richard J. DePiano, chairman and CEO of Escalon Medical Corporation.

Founded in 1987, Escalon develops, markets and distributes ophthalmic medical devices and pharmaceuticals, has developed a commercial ultrafast laser for clinical applications and is developing an ophthalmic drug delivery system. Escalon has headquarters in Skillman, N.J., and manufacturing operations near Milwaukee, Wis.

Funding for IntraLase is being provided by the Enterprise Development Fund, an Ann Arbor, Mich., venture capital firm. "EDF is pleased to participate in the financing and development of IntraLase Corporation," said general partner Thomas S. Porter. "Combining U-M and Escalon technology will put the company in a position to develop the next generation of ophthalmic lasers and capitalize on the rapidly growing laser eye surgery market."

Animal testing to determine the safety and effectiveness of IntraLase lasers will be conducted at the U-M's Kellogg Eye Center under a sponsored research agreement also approved by the Board of Regents. Future human clinical trials also are planned pending review and approvals by the Food and Drug Administration and the U-M's institutional review board.

CUOS was established in 1991 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the State of Michigan to advance ultrafast laser science and technology. CUOS has launched several start-up firms and licensed many patents since it was established. According to Gerard A. Mourou, U-M professor of electrical engineering and computer science and the center's director, CUOS scientists will continue to conduct research on additional ultrafast laser medical applications in collaboration with the Kellogg Eye Center.

In addition to NSF, basic research funding has been provided by the U-M Office of the Vice President for Research, the U-M College of Engineering, the W.K. Kellogg Eye Center, the Research to Prevent Blindness Foundation and the Midwest Eye Bank and Transplantation Centers.

The U-M has been awarded a patent on the ultrafast laser technology, which has additional non-medical applications in many areas of materials processing and manufacturing.

University of Michigan

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