Industry Veteran to Accelerate Development of Advanced Therapy Platform for Ocular Diseases
June 8, 2021
Greg Kunst has been named chief executive officer of newly-launched Aurion Biotech, whose mission is to cure blindness by developing a differentiated platform of advanced therapies to treat ocular diseases. The company’s first candidate is a cell therapy for the treatment of corneal endothelial disease, which affects millions of people worldwide, with symptoms that include blurred vision, glare, discomfort and pain. Invented by world-renowned ophthalmic surgeon and research scientist Professor Shigeru Kinoshita and his distinguished colleagues at Kyoto Prefecture University of Medicine (KPUM) in Japan, corneal endothelial cell therapy has demonstrated long-term efficacy in Phase 2 and Phase 3 studies in Japan.
“I am delighted to join Aurion Biotech because we have all the key ingredients for success—the best science, the best scientists and medical advisors, and the best backers,” said Greg Kunst. “Our lead candidate, in early research and Phase 2 and Phase 3 studies in Japan, has already demonstrated long-term, significant improvements in patients’ vision. I look forward to scaling up our team to pursue clinical development in the US and around the world, and to build a platform of transformational biotechnologies with the aim of restoring vision to all patients who need it.”
Greg has deep and varied experience in ophthalmic medical devices, drug delivery systems, diagnostics, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical products. His expertise spans global corporate development, strategy, health policy, marketing, commercialization, business development, market access and medical affairs. Before Aurion Biotech, Greg spent six years at Glaukos Corporation (NYSE: GKOS), where he led the worldwide marketing, market access, reimbursement, health economics and outcomes research, government affairs, and business development teams. During his tenure at Glaukos, Greg launched four new products and led the development for multiple ophthalmology device, pharmaceuticals and biologics candidates targeting corneal, glaucoma, and retinal diseases. Before Glaukos, Greg was global franchise director over the glaucoma surgery and retina pharmaceutical businesses at Alcon, a Novartis company. Before joining Alcon, Greg was the global head of market access at Kinetic Concepts, Inc. (Acelity Inc.) Greg is a member of the steering committee for the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute at the University of California, Irvine. Greg holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University and a BS in Economics from Brigham Young University.
“Greg’s achievements and experience have prepared him well for the opportunity at Aurion Biotech,” said Tom Frinzi, board chair. “I quickly realized he is the right person at the right time to lead this team, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have him accelerate the company’s growth and success.”
“Having backed numerous successful technologies in ophthalmology, I know that great people are every bit as important as are great products,” said Bill Link, general partner at Flying L Ventures, and board member. “With Greg at the helm, I’m excited for Aurion Biotech and its very bright future.”
About Aurion Biotech
Based in Seattle and Boston, Aurion Biotech is a clinical stage biotech company. Our mission is to cure leading forms of blindness and transform the lives of millions of patients, by developing a platform of advanced therapies. Our first candidate is for the treatment of corneal endothelial disease, and one of the first clinically validated cell therapies for corneal care. Healthy cells from a donor cornea are cultured in a novel, multi-step, proprietary and patented process. Cell lots manufactured from a single donor may be used to treat more than 100 recipient eyes. In early research and Phase 2 & Phase 3 clinical trials in Japan, patients have experienced long-term, significant improvements in key measures of corneal health: visual acuity, corneal endothelial cell density and corneal thickness. The Aurion Biotech team is preparing for clinical trials in the U.S. To learn more about Aurion Biotech, a division of CorneaGen Inc., visit www.aurionbiotech.com
Bernie Iliakis Promoted to President of CorneaGen
March 16, 2021
CorneaGen, a mission-driven company committed to transforming how corneal surgeons treat and care for the cornea, today announced that Bernardino “Bernie” Iliakis has been promoted from chief operating officer to president of the company. Bernie will assume leadership of the company as part of Monty Montoya’s transition from CEO to strategic advisor to CorneaGen.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Bernie for over 25 years,” said Monty Montoya. “He is deeply passionate about CorneaGen’s mission to eliminate corneal blindness, he is a beloved leader and manager, and he is well known in our industry for his integrity and work ethic. I’m delighted to continue our collaboration in the months and years to come, and to support Bernie and the team in driving continued growth and success for CorneaGen.”
Bernie began his career in eye banking as a technician at SightLife (then known as Northwest Lions Eye Bank) in August 1995 where he did everything from recovering tissue from donors to training other technicians. By 1998, Bernie had become technical director responsible for all operations staff and eye bank policy and procedure. He then became COO in 2003 and transitioned to CorneaGen when it was formed in 2016. Also in 2016, Bernie was honored by the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) with the Leonard Heise Award for his outstanding contributions and devotion to the field of eye banking.
“There are very few people who have had as much impact in our industry as Bernie. We’re delighted for him to lead CorneaGen,” said Tom Frinzi, chair of CorneaGen’s board. “He is well respected and his insights, proven track record and deep industry experience will help drive CorneaGen to the next level of growth and success.”
Bernie has spent his entire career in cornea donation and transplantion, working nationally and internationally to extend the gift of sight. His multi-year clinical research on the development of the practical use of laser technology was unique enough to apply for a U.S. Patent in 2006. The result, a process to surgically cut corneal transplant tissue using a femtosecond laser, helped to revolutionize the delivery of care to individuals suffering from corneal blindness.
“I’m excited and honored to lead CorneaGen and continue our commitment to fulfill our mission,” said Iliakis. “We look forward to serving our surgeons, patients and donor families and industry partners with relentless dedication to quality and innovation in corneal care.”
Bernie served for 15 years on both the Medical Advisory Board for the EBAA, which creates and revises the medical standards that govern eye banking, and the Accreditation Board as an inspector, determining accreditation status of eye banks. He has also been a member of the American Association of Ophthalmology and American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery participating on the course faculty for Femtosecond Laser Keratoplasty.
Bernie received his master’s degree in Health Administration from the University of Washington and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology, also at the UW.
CorneaGen is a mission-driven company committed to transforming how corneal surgeons treat and care for the cornea. Based in Seattle, the company is innovating the next generation of cornea care, from new medical devices and biologics to treatments and interventions. CorneaGen supports corneal surgeons and their patients with a spectrum of services, including the latest in innovative products, delivery of the highest quality tissue, surgeon education, and advocacy for patient access and reimbursement policies. https://corneagen.com
Greg Kunst has been named chief executive officer of newly-launched...READ MORE
ASCRS 2021 – Las Vegas
July 23, 2021-July 27, 2021
The 2021 ASCRS Annual Meeting will now be held July 23–27 in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Due to the current restrictions in San Francisco, California, and their impact on events and meetings, ASCRS is unable to hold the 2021 Annual Meeting in California as planned. In order to bring you the quality educational experience associated with the meeting, we have made the decision to change the venue. Registration with housing opens Monday, March1.