Renowned retina specialist and surgeon Eugene de Juan Jr., MD, holds more than 100 patents. Three of his novel surgical devices are now used worldwide, and more are on the way. His entrepreneurship is highly collaborative, bringing together teams of vision scientists, investors, bio-engineers, and device fabricators to transform the lives of patients facing sight loss.
“Dr. de Juan envisions novel ways to overcome major treatment challenges,” says glaucoma specialist Robert Stamper, MD. “He mobilizes enormous resources to refine his concepts and move them through the pipeline to help millions of patients.”
It takes great teams to accomplish goals this big. The path to clinical approval is steep. In the United States, it requires at least 10 years of research, development, and rigorous testing, at a cost of $200 million or more.
UCSF + Startup Spirit
“Our faculty taps into an incredibly creative micro-environment here in the Bay Area,” says Department of Ophthalmology Chair Stephen D. McLeod, MD.
Dr. de Juan, who holds the Jean Kelly Stock Distinguished Professorship in Ophthalmology, founded ForSight Labs, LLC, in Menlo Park, as an incubator for his inventions. Silicon Valley’s start-up spirit, its willingness to invest in technological innovation, and proximity to the stellar UCSF research community benefit the specialist’s sight-saving ventures. Dr. de Juan engages many clinical faculty on his teams, including glaucoma specialists Dr. Stamper, Shan Lin, MD, and Ying Han, MD, PhD; retina specialists Robert Bhisitkul, MD, PhD; Jacque Duncan, MD; and Jay Stewart, MD; and cataract, corneal disease, and refractive surgery specialists Dr. McLeod and Ayman Naseri, MD.
UCSF vision scientists play many roles, ranging from design consultation, laboratory investigation, development of surgical protocols for novel devices, clinical trial oversight, and implantation of novel devices during trials.
A Foremost Innovator…“Making the World Better”
“I feel driven to improve the lives of those threatened with sight loss,” says Dr. de Juan. “It’s my way of making the world better.”
According to theGlaucoma Research Foundation, “Dr. de Juan’s leadership developing exciting new technologies has established his reputation as one of the world’s foremost innovators in vision science.”
The foundation recently honored Dr. de Juan with its 2017 Catalyst Award
Dr. de Juan’s Goals
- More comfortable, continual, and longer-term drug delivery
- Reduced chances for complications
- Fewer treatment visits
- Easier patient compliance
- Improved functioning of diseased eyes
- Less complex surgeries with shorter recoveries
Agile Teams Deliver
Dr. Jay Stewart did extensive work refining a promising drug delivery system for patients with macular degeneration. It is now in clinical trials at UCSF and several other sit es. “Dr. de Juanis a visionary in making existing drug therapies much more practical for patients,” says Dr. Stewart.
“When it comes to biomedical research and development, universities and small companies tend to outpe
rform big companies,” says Dr. de Juan. “Small teams are inherently more agile, and
s necessary to reinvent treatment.”
University research cultures encourage high risk approaches corporate aversion to risk can prevent the creative leapleading-edge university teams and dynamic startups the best bets for advancing patient solutions.
Carry the Torch Forward
Dr. de Juan holds his enterprises close to his heart, but he is not content with the success of his own innovations. He evangelizes to residents and fellows on the need for creativity, meaning, and impact in vision research. He wants the next generation to take hold of the same burning torch that he carries.
“I tell them: ‘Choose a path that is important, not just interesting. Don’t think that someone else will solve the biggest problems in our field. It is up to you, and you are up to the job.’ ” With these urgent words, Dr. de Juan reflects the goals of UCSF Ophthalmology: To save and restore sight for present and future generations.
Some devices pictured have been greatly enlarged to show detail.