Made in Minnesota

The Eyes Have It

MicroOptx is working to make glaucoma past tense

By Hill Tiguila

For Chris Pulling, Roy Martin and Dr. J. David Brown, glaucoma is personal. Pulling’s grandmother went blind because of glaucoma, and Martin’s aunt had the eye disease, while Brown, an ophthalmologist, is a leading eye surgeon. The founders of Maple Grove–based MicroOptx have made it their business to cure glaucoma, which is the leading cause of irreversible blindness.  

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease and affects approximately 3 million people in the U.S. It occurs when the eye’s drainage channels become clogged. The pressure from fluid buildup causes permanent damage to the optic nerve, resulting in irreversible vision loss. 

Today’s treatments may slow down the disease’s progression but are associated with high complication rates, and often lose their effectiveness over time. One common treatment is eye drops, which can cost patients more than $5,000 a year. “The drops can also cause red, burning and itching eyes in about 60% of patients who use them and are associated with poor compliance rates,” says Pulling.     

MicroOptx has introduced a micro shunt that could lead to a functional cure. The technology moves excess fluid outside the eye to reduce pressure. “This device uses nanotechnology, microfluidics and advanced chemistry to reduce intraocular pressure to a level sufficient to halt the progression to blindness from glaucoma, and spare whatever vision remains for the implanted eye,” says Pulling. 

The company and its technology was founded and licensed in 2014 by Brown, Pulling, Martin and Keith Bares. Trials began in April in Minnesota and Germany. 

This story appears in print in our March/April issue. Click here for a complimentary subscription.