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BioCommunique Article

Biocom Member Spotlight: Interview with Kokila Doshi and Praful Doshi of Leo Lens Technology

Biocom Member Spotlight: Interview with Kokila & Praful Doshi, Co-Founders of Leo Lens Technology

  • 2019-09-06T01:50:00.000+0000
  • San Diego
  • Author: Matt D’Angelo

Biocom recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Praful Doshi, Co-Founder, CEO and CTO, Kokila Doshi, Co-Founder, and Kenny Key, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel at Leo Lens Technology to learn more about how this innovative 3D digital printing company is leveraging technology to create medicated contact lenses, in support of their mission to "create a world in which all preventable blindness is eliminated". Biocom's Matt D'Angelo and Heather Ramsay got a first-hand look at the competitive advantages of printing on an FDA approved product, the benefits of an alternate, non-invasive, sustained drug delivery that does not require office visits or procedures, and the team of mentors and partners, as well as the the pivotal moments, that got Leo Lens Technology to the place it is today.

MD: We love to hear how successful leaders start their day – could you give us a glimpse of what your morning routine looks like?

PD: I usually get up around 5AM and start my day with meditation and stretching exercises. I read for about 20 minutes from an inspirational book (i.e.: The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer, The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success Principles by Deepak Chopra, Applying the Power of Positive Thinking by Self Realization Fellowship, to name a few). I use the morning time mainly for the matters that require critical thinking, problem-solving, and are of high business priority.

MD: Tell us about your company’s technology and mission and vision.

PD: My wife and I started this business more than 17 years ago. Our passion and Leo Lens Technology’s vision is that we want our footprint to involve creating a world in which all preventable blindness is eliminated. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness. Approximately 70 million people suffer from glaucoma globally, with about 3 million people in the US, and that number is growing.

Leo Lens Technology performs focused research and development for innovative applications of digital printing for ocular drug delivery from contact lenses to treat glaucoma and other ocular diseases.

We have developed a novel platform technology, protected with 15+ global patents (including five U.S. patents), that provides sustained release of an ocular medications for up to seven days. It meets a significant unmet need. Even though the concept of medicated lenses has been explored for the last 50 years – to date, there are no commercialized medicated lenses in the ocular drug market, which is globally valued at more than $20B. We are able to overcome most of the common commercialization and regulatory barriers with the help of our cutting edge, enabling digital printing technology.

Leveraging 3D digital printing, we build drug reservoirs and barrier layers and add a comfort agent on the surface of an existing FDA approved contact lens. The end result is a commercially viable, clinically effective, and affordable solution that will increase patient compliance and adherence, leading to preservation of sight. Further, the medicated lens should be safer for patients as it requires less of the active pharmaceutical and is preservative free. Leo Lens Technology has a pipeline of products with its innovative platform technology to treat Dry Eye, Allergy, Infection, and other ocular indications

MD: We’re curious about the name, Leo Lens Technology. Can we ask how you settled on LLT?

PD: Well, first of all, there’s Leo the lion – the king. Ours is the technology that allows you to enhance the health, vision, and beauty of a patient’s eye from a single contact lens. Being the only lens that can provide those features simultaneously, it’s the king of the lenses – and thus Leo Lens.

MD: What excites you most about what LLT is currently doing?

PD: What drives me every morning is the goal to put a more clinically effective solution for glaucoma and other diseases in the hands of practitioners. Currently, LLT is working on designing a small proof-of-concept Phase 2a human trial. I am excited about meeting regulatory and commercialization milestones. With proof-of-concept – we will approach investors and strategic partners. We intend to be the first company to commercialize and deliver medicated contact lenses and provide an affordable, effective first line treatment in the hands of practitioners to accomplish our mission of preventing avoidable blindness.

MD: What would you say LLT’s biggest competitive advantage is against others in this space?

PD: Leo Lens Technology leverages the power of 3D digital printing technology which allows us to print FDA approved drugs on the surface of FDA approved contact lenses. Printing on the surface of an FDA approved lens gives us commercial and regulatory advantages over the competition. Current solutions that are in development stage have to build a “de novo” lens where the lens and drug both undergo significant changes, require complex and expensive steps in manufacturing, and a lengthy, risky and costly FDA approval process. Our capability to print on the surface of the lens translates into a commercially attractive and more clinically effective technology platform. With the cutting-edge inkjet printing and proprietary chemistry development, our technology offers several benefits:

  • Increased bioavailability due to sustained delivery provides better outcomes from treatment
  • Non-Invasive, simple, low cost proven drug carrier platform of contact lens without changing route of drug delivery
  • Use of FDA approved drug and contact lenses offers low cost, less risky, expedient FDA approval
  • Leveraging use of existing lens manufacturing line reduces capital investment
  • Preservative free, weekly treatment promises increased compliance while mitigating side effects
  • Insertion or removal of medicated lens does not require office visits or procedures
  • Platform technology offers pipeline of multiple products
  • Enabling Digital printing offers flexibility of multiple drugs from the same lens

MD: A majority of the Glaucoma patients are elderly. What about product adoption by patients?

PD: Very good question. It is true that the incidence of Glaucoma is higher among the patients in the age group of 60 or above. However, please remember that insertion of contact lens can be done by patients themselves or any one from friends, family, or someone in nursing home. It does not require trained, licensed professional to insert lens.

A survey of patients in the age group of 60+, carried out by Oxford university showed that more than 52% of patients aged 50-69 are ready to use these lenses to treat their ocular diseases. Also, a market survey of US optometrists, who normally are the first one to diagnose Glaucoma, indicated that 90% of them would prescribe a medicated contact lens as the first line of treatment for all of their glaucoma patients.

I may also point out here that medicated contact lenses offer the optimal solution – being non-invasive, preservative free, low cost, effective and efficient. What do you think patients would prefer – putting a lens in the eye every week or the surgical insertion of an insert every twelve weeks?

MD: We’d love to hear why you decided to establish your company’s headquarters in San Diego. Are you from San Diego originally?

PD: I have been in San Diego for more than 30 years. The decision to establish LLT’s headquarters in San Diego was based on many factors.

In our initial stage, HP’s presence in San Diego gave us a large applicant pool of employees and consultants with expertise in inkjet printing. San Diego is a thriving hub in general for the life science and biotechnology fields, offering a wide selection of workers with required skill sets in ocular diseases, clinical talents, and chemistry.

San Diego’s proximity to Orange County provides us with even more access to ocular talent, universities and investors. Also, the presence of a local, reputable university (UCSD) provided us with our first SBIR grant with faculty from UCSD’s ophthalmology department as well as the ability to hire talented engineering students.

MD: Speaking of hiring, what traits and attributes are you looking for when building your team?

PD: As Leo Lens Technology grows, we will be hiring employees in the regulatory areas of pharmaceuticals, quality control, biochemistry, clinical trial specialists, and advanced inkjet printing. Leo Lens Technology is looking for high-level, specialized skills in ocular diseases and digital printing. The company sets a culture of dedication and passion and plans to seek employees who are highly motivated and shares Leo Lens’ vision and breathes its passion of the greater good. We are fortunate to have a really good team who believes in our technology – they enjoy it, and they like the cause. Kenny Key (our COO) calls it purpose beyond job.

MD: We talk a lot about mentorship in this industry at Biocom. Who would you say has been a mentor/role model in the industry for you as you’ve navigated the challenges of running your own business?

PD: I’ve been lucky to have a few mentors along my path to CEO of Leo Lens Technology. As an employee, in the beginning of my career at Bausch & Lomb, Kamal Sarvadhikari (Sr. Executive, VP of Vision Care) was my first mentor and a role model. As I progressed in my career and became an entrepreneur, the former President of CooperVision (CVI) – Greg Fryling, was my key advisor. When we first collaborated with CVI, I came to know Greg’s management and leadership qualities very well – his win-win solution approach, honesty, transparency, generosity, and care for employees – he is my role model, and has been instrumental in developing LLT’s culture.

MD: Could you describe any pivotal moments or personal history that led you to where you are today?

PD: In the early days of color inkjet printing in 1999, my daughter complained one night at home about her project being ruined because it was printing the color blue instead of green. When I opened the inkjet printer to look for the cause, I saw four color cartridges (CYMK), and found that the cartridge for the color yellow was empty. A spark occurred: “How clever it was to be mixing and matching different amounts of colors to produce the entire color spectrum.” Further extension of that thought led me to harnessing the power of Digital Printing – the third industrial revolution – for its various applications, such as printing the digital image of an iris for a cosmetic / prosthetic contact lens that provides the most natural iris look.

From there, when I saw some close family members becoming blind due to glaucoma in spite of availability of drugs and I learned how wide spread the disease is, I pursued it further. I realized the idea of using contact lenses for better treatment of ocular diseases was more than 50 years old. It was well researched but lacked commercialization friendly technology. Here I saw the opportunity to combine my experience in contact lens manufacturing and enabling digital printing technology to produce commercialization friendly medicated contact lenses. Today, we are indeed very excited to start clinical testing to put our product in the eye of patients in next 2-3 years.

MD: Well we’re honored to have you as a member of Biocom the life science community. Could you tell us about your team’s involvement with Biocom to date?

PD: Biocom membership has given much-needed exposure to Leo Lens Technology in the ocular and biotech field. Our Biocom membership has given our team access to a number of educational and networking events. Our team is also on a few Biocom committees to ensure we stay up to speed on key industry trends.

MD: We’re excited to hear that you’re already taking advantage of the many ways members can increase visibility in this industry through committee exposure and networking at events. We hope this interview will help even more to get the word out about all of the innovative technology your team is working to bring to market. Are there any additional ways Biocom can continue to assist you as your needs grow and evolve?

PD: Access to capital is always an issue for a growth stage company, so any additional assistance with that would be greatly appreciated. We’re excited to take part in Biocom’s Partnering or Venture Days, as well as one-on-one meeting opportunities, and events like the Global Partnering Conference. Further, as we come out of stealth mode and begin to publish and present our data, having this kind of platform to get our story out to the general public as well and investors and strategic partners will be invaluable.