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LIQID lands $1.75m to pioneer sight-saving ocular implants

Dr Daemon McClunan, an award-winning ophthalmologist an founder of LIQID Medical. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn
Dr Daemon McClunan, an award-winning ophthalmologist an founder of LIQID Medical. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn

A South Africa-founded healthtech start-up, LIQID Medical, has secured investment to the tune of R30 million (about $1.75 million) from the SAB Foundation, an independent trust affiliated to South African Breweries (SAB).

LIQID Medical – a medical device development start-up pioneering a new class of sight-saving ocular implants – was founded by Dr Daemon McClunan, an award-winning ophthalmologist specialising in glaucoma treatment. He is the youngest member ever admitted to the executive committee member of the South African Glaucoma Society.

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“We are proud to be one of the first foundations in the country to use its endowment for impact investment,” says Bridgit Evans, executive director of the SAB Foundation. “The aim of this is to leverage traditional capital pools toward solutions that address key socio-economic challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty.”

According to Evans the SAB Foundation was set up as part of SAB’s black economic empowerment scheme and receives dividends bi-annually. “We will be using funds from those investments to fund the transaction, which represents a significant shareholding in this business.”

Based in Cape Town, which is emerging as a major technology hub, LIQID Medical was previously awarded R1.3 million in funding and mentorship as the winner of the foundation’s Disability Empowerment Awards in 2019. They used the grant to conduct their first human trials with very encouraging results.

The patented devices have been designed to harness a naturally occurring anatomical mechanism to provide the potential for the most clinically effective, cost-saving, and quality-of-life-improving solutions for glaucoma, a leading cause of global blindness. Currently, there are three core devices under development, which are the OptiShunt, iPortVR, and iFlow.

McClunan has been working on the development of these devices since 2015. Following its most recent investment of R9.5 million (about $556 000) from the Technology and Innovation Agency of South Africa, the R30 million equity funding investment from the SAB Foundation is earmarked for technology development, regulatory accreditation, clinical trials, and IP portfolio development over a period of three years.

“Our goal is to be commercialisation ready by the end of the funding tranche,” explains McClunan.

“Commercialisation, followed by launch to market, is expected three years after the investment. This is driven by the company concluding further clinical trials and securing international regulatory approvals within the target period.”

According to research conducted by IDF Capital, the global glaucoma treatment market is $8.2 billion per annum, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.9%. The total number of patients globally with glaucoma is 76 million, with the total revenue generated per annum from device sales being $1.5 billion. In addition, the total number of glaucoma surgical procedures performed per annum is one million.

Currently, the most effective means of treating glaucoma involves draining excess fluid from the eye via the traditional drainage pathway by implantation of a tube-shunt device. A more effective treatment solution has never been developed until now. LIQID Medical has developed three patented glaucoma implants, each designed to fill three clearly defined gaps in the market, and all of which will be manufactured in South Africa.

“As a foundation, our ultimate objective is to support social innovators to develop their businesses, which will in turn boost the local economy and create jobs,” says Evans. “This investment is a significant opportunity to mobilise capital into investments that target measurable positive social and economic impact alongside financial returns.”

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