Most people have experienced the slight and brief disorientation that occurs when you walk into a darkened movie theater or out of your house at night. It can sometimes take a minute or two for your eyes to adjust from bright light to darkness and see clearly, or undergo “dark adaptation.”
For the 13 million people in the U.S. and 30 million worldwide who have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), dark adaptation takes much longer. Penn State professor Greg Jackson conducted a study in 2002 that found those with impaired night vision were disproportionately likely to be later diagnosed with AMD. Jackson is the principal inventor of the AdaptDX dark adaptmeter, which helps to diagnose AMD earlier and more accurately.
John Edwards, a veteran of technology commercialization with three startups under his belt, founded MacuLogix with Jackson in 2008 and has helped grow the company and its AdaptDx technology with a clear vision.
The company has already sold 18 prototypes to beta customers like academic researchers and recently raised a $3.6 million Series A funding round to accelerate manufacturing and sales of AdaptDx, and will be adding 10 new employees in the next 18 months.
What was the biggest challenge in getting MacuLogix off the ground?
Like any early stage company, funding was our biggest challenge. It is not easy to get the resources needed for product development. Unlike software or other industries, the product development period for a life sciences company is much longer, which can make it difficult to get off the ground.
What resources did you take advantage of to launch MacuLogix?
Since the beginning, I have been committed to leveraging non-diluted capital with funding from government and foundation grants–particularly Small Business Innovation Research grants–as well as other sources.
What resources did you take advantage of to grow MacuLogix?
Once the company was formally launched in 2008, we were able to take advantage of the resources available at the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central PA and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Additionally, the Hershey Center for Applied Research has been a tremendous asset to our business. The proximity of HCAR to Penn State College of Medicine and its clinical research facilities has been especially helpful to the development of our AdaptDx.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome, personally or professionally?
The biggest challenge to me, and I think many entrepreneurs will agree, is knowing when to give up and when to push forward. This is especially true when it comes to commercializing science.
It is easy to get caught up in the fascination of the research and keep diving into new areas and applications. On the other hand, the life cycle for product development and commercialization in this industry is very long, making it critical to stay focused on the end game.
Talk about the moment where you knew you made the right decision in starting this company.
In 2006, Greg Jackson and I were visiting Dr. Emily Chew, the deputy director of the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications at the National Eye Institute (NEI). She was impressed by the data from our clinical studies and volunteered to help any way she could.
Getting such a positive reaction from an industry heavy-hitter was not only rewarding, but also validated that we were on a path that could dramatically impact the quality of life for the aging population.
How can we stimulate small business to be an engine for job creation?
Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central PA, Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the Hershey Center for Applied Research are all tremendous vehicles for growing businesses like MacuLogix.
What can be improved is the maze of regulatory overhead. As a small business, you can easily become consumed with paperwork and red tape, draining resources that could be more effectively allocated to develop your product and grow your business.
What key partnerships in your region or state have helped MacuLogix grow?
Inteprod, the contract manufacturer of our product, has been an extremely valuable partner for us. They understand the complexities of medical device products and deliver high quality, value-added services that would be very inefficient and expensive for us to try to replicate on our own. Furthermore, Inteprod is located in Eagleville, allowing us to keep the development and manufacturing of our product close by.
What advantages does being in your region hold for entrepreneurs?
Pennsylvania is a great place to grow a life sciences business. There are a lot of investors and business leaders familiar with the early-stage life sciences industry, making the ability to get funding and support easier. The investors understand and are more comfortable with the long lifecycles of companies like ours, making it easier to do business together.
Where does your region need to improve in terms of support for entrepreneurs?
It would be great if the region offered a one-stop-shop for small businesses to navigate the bureaucratic complexities of running a business. The number of government forms, tax filings, and other reporting required for compliance at the national, state and local levels can really drain the resources and momentum of an organization.
What’s the big differentiator for MacuLogix?
Cataracts were once a major concern for the aging population. Today, treating them is an in and out procedure that is very successful in restoring vision.
Glaucoma then took over as the leading eye health concern. While it is not curable, there have been significant strides in the treatment and management of the disease and people with glaucoma today have a much better quality of life than ever before.
Today it’s AMD, a progressive disease affecting 13 million people in the U.S. and 30 million people worldwide. With our AdaptDx diagnostic, we are making a difference in an area where the problem is still unsolved.
What’s next for MacuLogix?
The next step for MacuLogix is to get our breakthrough product into the hands of eye-care physicians across the country. Before, we were in development-mode. We have now officially switched gears to commercialization. The research has been completed, and it’s time for us to start helping with the challenge of preserving vision and improving quality of life for aging baby boomers everywhere.
— by Joe Petrucci
1214 Research Blvd. Hummelstown, PA 17036