23 April 2013

Eye Tech Care’s business angel funding contributes towards worldwide increase

Business angel deal activity was at a high level in the first quarter of calendar year 2013, with a total of EUR 797 million invested across 313 deals over the three month period, according to Zephyr, the M&A database published by Bureau van Dijk. Results showed that the highest-value business angel deal in the region occurred in March, and saw France-based Eye Tech Care receive EUR 10 million as part of a third round of funding from investors including private equity firms Omnes Capital and SHAM and angel investor Bernard Chauvin, who joined the company’s board upon completion. Eye Tech Care is engaged in the manufacture and design of non-invasive medical devices for the treatment of eye diseases. The company’s chief executive Fabrice Romano described Chauvin as a “renowned authority in the ophthalmology field” and went on to say that the investment would come in handy, enabling the business to consolidate its presence in the European market and prepare to enter the US.

Rillieux-la-Pape-based Eye Tech Care is in the midst of its EyeMUST 2 trial for the EyeOP1 device, designed to treat glaucoma patients using ultrasound waves. The company launched the trial, which involves testing its latest technology on 120 patients in ten international centres, during the second quarter of 2012. Some of the proceeds of the investment round will contribute towards funding this study, which is expected to have its results published some time in 2014, as well as towards financing the Food and Drug Administration registration process.

For his part, Chauvin holds positions as the director of a number of companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. He previously headed Laboratoire Chauvin until it was bought by global eye health giant Bausch & Lomb, and served as chief executive officer of Neurotech until 2004.

Eye Tech Care has been the recipient of funding rounds in the past, bringing in a total of almost EUR 9 million in two rounds in 2008 and 2010. However, the latest deal represents the first time it has been able to take advantage of the participation of a business angel. Previous investors include CEA Investissement and Société Hospitalière d'Assurance Mutuelles.

However, Zephyr shows the business is by no means the only medical device maker in Western Europe to have benefitted from the generosity of business angels in the first quarter of 2013. On its heels was a second round of funding in which new and existing investors, led by Dr Rolf Käse, injected just under EUR 3 million into Germany-based Transcatheter Technologies, which is engaged in the development of an aortic valve implantation system. Commenting on the deal, the target’s chief executive, Wolfgang Goetz, said proceeds would be used to bring the firm closer to its first clinical trials, which it hopes to carry out later this year.

Another medical devices deal with business angel participation saw UK-based Fertility Focus receive EUR 1 million from angel investment network Envestors and Angel CoFund, as well as venture capital provider Midven. Fertility Focus said it would use the funds to expand its team in direct territories while also increasing the amount of marketing support it provides to its sales channels. The company currently offers two products; its FertiloScope is designed to diagnose the reasons behind female infertility, while OvuSense is used to predict the fertile period and the presence or absence of ovulation, thereby enabling specialists to determine the best time to begin intrauterine insemination treatment.

Others in the medical devices sector to have received angel investment so far this year include UK laparoscopic equipment developer Cipher Surgical, German contrast agents maker Nano4Imaging and Tenon Technology, a Switzerland-headquartered sacroiliac joint implants manufacturer.

With regard to the medical device manufacturing sector, Zephyr shows fairly mixed results for Q1 2013, with 8 deals recorded, the highest number for any quarter since Q2 2006, according to the database. These transactions had a combined value of EUR 17 million.

According to Zephyr’s sources the industry’s largest angel investment deal by value since the beginning of 2006 was a second round of funding for Foundation Medicine. The transaction was announced in September 2012 and saw the business raise EUR 43 million from investors including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Evan Jones and Yuri Milner, as well as investment companies such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Google Ventures and Deerfield Management Company, among others.

In general, business angel activity appears to be on the increase, something which is likely attributable to banks refusing to lend to blue chip companies or new businesses without trading records. As a result, angels appear to have taken the initiative and stepped into the breach. The last few years have seen angels injecting progressively more into their targets and this may provide some clues as to where the market is heading.

© Zephyr