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
CorneaGen, a mission-driven company committed to transforming how corneal surgeons...READ MORE
CorneaGen Raises $37 Million to Advance Development of Cornea Cell Therapy
October 7, 2019
CorneaGen, a mission-driven company committed to transforming how corneal surgeons treat and care for the cornea, today announced the closing of a $37 million Series B financing. The round was led by Flying L Partners in collaboration with Falcon Vision, a platform formed by KKR to advance innovation in ophthalmology. Petrichor Healthcare Capital Management also participated significantly in the equity round and provided a $25 million credit facility to provide additional growth capital to fund CorneaGen’s global expansion.
“CorneaGen is dedicating significant resources to finding new ways to prevent and treat corneal blindness that can be scaled to reach people around the world,” said Bill Link, managing partner of Flying L Partners. “Advances and innovation in corneal treatments up until now have been limited due to the fragmentation of the global market. We see this important, underserved market as an opportunity for CorneaGen.”
CorneaGen will use the proceeds of the Series B financing to expand its market share and acquire and develop innovative corneal care products, services and technologies. One of the most promising is Cornea Cell Therapy, a treatment that involves culturing human eye endothelial cells and injecting them into the anterior chamber of a corneal blind patient’s eye. The injected cells have been shown to safely restore sight within a month, eliminating the need for more invasive corneal transplant surgery and transforming the lives of patients with impaired endothelial cell function who suffer from extreme vision loss or distortion.
“We are moving forward with creating a subsidiary in Japan to drive obtaining regulatory approval to manufacture and commercialize the treatment,” said CorneaGen CEO Monty Montoya. “A single donated human cornea yields sight-restoring Cornea Cell Therapy treatments for 100 or more patients, so this will be a game-changer for corneal blind people around the world, especially in areas where access to donor tissue is restricted.”
All patients in Cornea Cell Therapy clinical trials in Japan reported clear corneas one month after the procedure and a full year of post-operative data shows their corneas continued to be healthy and clear.
“As a cornea researcher and surgeon, I want to ensure that the maximum number of patients will benefit from our efforts to develop Cornea Cell Therapy,” said Dr. Shigeru Kinoshita of Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan. “It is clear to my collaborators and me that CorneaGen is the ideal organization to realize the full potential of this treatment and we are excited to see our efforts advance under their leadership.”
CorneaGen also recently acquired the domestic eye bank operations of KeraLink International and now provides approximately 25 percent of domestic donor corneas for transplant surgeries.
About Flying L Partners
Flying L Partners brings together business and clinical leaders with decades-long track records of building, leading, and funding high-impact ophthalmic technologies. The mission is to identify promising opportunities and accelerate value creation with strategic and operational insights. Flying L Partners focuses on both medical device and biopharmaceutical opportunities with differentiated clinical value propositions, identified regulatory and reimbursement paths, and tangible milestones to crystallize value. The team at Flying L Partners will collaborate with Falcon Vision to identify and execute new opportunities.
About Falcon Vision
Falcon Vision is an ophthalmology-focused platform supported by KKR. The platform will invest in and manage a diversified portfolio of emerging assets across medical devices and biopharmaceuticals. Falcon Vision’s strategy is to address the need for capital, access to executive talent, and operational guidance to support advancement of innovative products for under-managed ophthalmic diseases and vision preservation. Falcon Vision will collaborate with the team at Flying L Partners to identify and execute new opportunities.
About Petrichor Healthcare Capital Management
Petrichor Healthcare Capital Management partners with world-class healthcare managers and businesses to provide customized investment structures and support. The Petrichor team of investment professionals comes from highly-regarded financial institutions including OrbiMed Advisors and Fortress Investment Group. Collectively, the team has completed over 75 investments representing more than $5 billion in invested capital and has held over 25 board seats. Petrichor maintains a deep in-house understanding of healthcare products and services, including scientific, technical, and commercial expertise. This healthcare expertise, together with a breadth of experience investing across sectors, geographies, and capital structures, provides a strong competitive advantage.
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
Endothelial Cell Therapy Announcement
May 4, 2017
SightLife Surgical teams with Dr. Shigeru Kinoshita at Kyoto Prefectural University of
Medicine to bring innovative corneal treatment to market
New endothelial cell therapy shows promising results in clinical trials
Seattle (May 4, 2017) – Today, SightLife Surgical, Inc. (SLS) announced plans to bring a
groundbreaking treatment for the corneal blind to market worldwide. The innovative therapy
involves culturing donated human eye endothelial cells and then injecting the cells into the anterior
chamber of a patient’s eye, where the injected cells safely restore sight within a month. This novel,
regenerative, medical intervention eliminates the need for more invasive corneal transplant surgery
for patients with impaired endothelial cell function who suffer from extreme vision loss or distortion.
“Our new endothelial cell therapy has been showing promising results in trials in Japan for the last
two years,” said Professor Shigeru Kinoshita. “To date, over 30 patients have been treated and are
showing great visual results with no infections or rejections and minimal post-operative care
The research effort is led by Professor Kinoshita and supported by corneal surgeons and
regenerative cell researchers from Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine and Doshisha
University. Following regulatory approval, the treatment could replace a majority of current
Descemet Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK) and Descemet’s Membrane
Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) corneal transplant procedures.
Early indications show that with this new, less invasive therapy, the donation of one human cornea
can result in sight-restoring endothelial treatment for 100 or more patients. This has positive
implications for corneal blind people around the world, especially in developing countries where
demand for corneal transplants far exceeds the availability of donor tissue, surgeon time and
“This new therapy will be a game-changer for millions suffering with endothelial-related corneal
disease. We are thrilled to work with Professor Kinoshita to ensure that this innovative therapy is
brought to market,” said Monty Montoya, SightLife Surgical president and CEO. “SightLife Surgical
is creating plans to obtain regulatory approval, manufacture and commercialize the therapy in the
U.S. and beyond.”
The cell processing capabilities necessary for the new therapy are in the process of being
transferred from Japan to SLS in Seattle. SLS expects to begin conducting clinical trials using
SLS-generated cells in the coming years.
About SightLife Surgical
SightLife Surgical was founded in fall 2016 to challenge the status quo of the cornea ecosystem,
primarily by driving the systemic change needed to enable innovation and access to treatments for
corneal blindness. This cornea-focused organization provides comprehensive services to support
ophthalmic surgeons, from corneal tissue and devices to reimbursement consulting and political
advocacy. Based in Seattle, SightLife Surgical is a for-profit subsidiary of SightLife, the only nonprofit global health organization working relentlessly to eliminate corneal blindness worldwide by
2040. This mission-driven structure maintains the non-profit status of SightLife as the parent
organization and adds a for-profit “engine” to power and accelerate achievement of the mission.