Access & Innovation: Creating Shared Value with Partners

Access & Innovation: Creating Shared Value with Partners

The following is part of our Access & Innovation Blog Series, which highlights the program, collaborations, and leaders that are imperative to increasing access to affordable, appropriate corneal care solutions that empower local eye-care providers to prevent disease and diagnose and treat patients more effectively.

Eliminating corneal blindness is an ambitious goal that SightLife cannot achieve alone. While collaboration is at the heart of all we do, it is especially important for our work in Access & Innovation (A&I), which requires the well-orchestrated coordination of a diverse array of partners. The key to A&I’s collaborations that accelerate the development, validation, and integration of health technology solutions is creating shared value, which establishes a link between business strategies and corporate social responsibility (CSR). In this blog post, we unpack why shared value is essential to our mission. We also share the progress we’ve made in modeling this approach in the ophthalmic world.

The Critical Importance of Shared Value

According to Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, who pioneered the concept, shared value is created when positive social impact returns are prioritized by the partnership alongside financial returns. Partner financial returns are important to SightLife’s A&I Program because they are critical to supporting the sustained impact we seek over time. Often, innovations are slow to spread to the markets where they may be needed the most. We seek to highlight opportunities in these untapped markets and thereby incentivize private industry to expand their efforts to reach more people in high-need regions. As such, the greater the mutual benefit, the stronger the partnership and the more likely our corneal care goals will be achieved.

Guiding Principles Shape Strong Partnerships

SightLife’s goal in any innovation-related partnership is to identify a win-win scenario that advances our mission to eliminate corneal blindness by 2040 in a way that also helps the partner achieve their own goals. Behind every collaboration is the following set of guiding principles that give structure to each engagement:

  1. Demonstrates a Clear Link to SightLife’s Mission. Our A&I collaborations are evidence-driven, and hold promise for demonstrating a positive impact by improving the affordability, availability, and adoption of corneal care products in low- and middle-income regions (LMIRs).
  2. Provides Clearly Defined Roles, Responsibilities, and Expectations. The working relationship between SightLife and our A&I collaborators is clearly defined in an appropriate agreement.
  3. Ensures Recognition of Collaborator Needs. Every partner identifies their needs and desired outcomes upfront to ensure the collaboration is successful for all involved. By mutually recognizing each collaborator’s needs, we are also advancing the end-user’s needs.
  4. Promises Transparency and the Sharing of Results. As a nonprofit organization, SightLife maintains a level of transparency in our collaborations that ensures the results of our collaborations are disseminated to maximize benefit.
  5. Expands Global Access. SightLife’s Return on Investment (ROI) is Transformed Lives. Therefore, we negotiate specific global corneal care access commitments with partners that are commensurate with our effort and our investment.

Our Approach in Action

In early 2020, stemming from the recommendation of SightLife’s Co-Medical Director, Matt Oliva, MD, the SightLife A&I team began investigating the use of small aperture Intraocular Lenses (IOLs) to treat corneal aberrations in regions with low access to transplants. We identified AcuFocus, Inc., the global leader in small aperture technology based on the published results of a study using their IC-8® IOL on patients with severe cornea irregularities. The device was developed to treat cataracts, but also shows promise for treating certain types of corneal blindness, including keratoconus.

As a venture-backed, start-up company, AcuFocus was focused on first achieving market access in the U.S. and in select European and Asia-Pacific markets before expanding more globally. The team at SightLife felt there was value in accelerating evaluation of the IC-8 small aperture IOL in LMIRs where the burden of corneal disease is great, but access to corneal transplants is limited. These conversations led to collaborative proposal development – the first step in the process to expand the device’s evidence base by testing it in areas of Nepal and India as recommended by in-country experts and the A&I Advisory Board.

“We are elated that a partnership with SightLife could advance AcuFocus’ business goals, but more importantly yield tremendous social impact,” said Magda Michna, PhD, Chief Clinical, Regulatory and Medical Affairs Officer of AcuFocus. “By building evidence through this collaborative effort, we can enhance our regulatory submissions while also expanding patient and physician understanding of the potential for small aperture technology to restore sight and deliver hope to people who may not have had access to care.”

In addition, SightLife has also recently partnered with Dr. May Griffith, Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montreal. Dr. Griffith is a lead researcher on the development of a biosynthetic corneal implants – a breakthrough innovation that could have a transformative impact in LMIRs that lack eye banking infrastructure and face a shortage of corneal tissue for sight-restoring transplants as a result.

“In coordination with many international researchers and clinicians, including Dr. Virender Sangwan, a SightLife Advisory Board member, my team has worked over two decades to develop a revolutionary alternative to corneal transplantation and we are thrilled to work with SightLife to leverage their expertise in reaching people who are corneal blind in low- and middle-income regions,” said Dr. Griffith. “As a career researcher, there is no greater reward than knowing that your work will have an impact on potentially millions of individuals who are currently living in the dark due to corneal blindness.”

Join Us in Partnering for Impact

SightLife’s focus on eliminating corneal blindness stems from our deep roots in eye banking, and moreover, the power of sight restoration and blindness prevention to transform lives. While we continue to scale corneal transplant solutions, we also envision a future where corneal care can be delivered through different, perhaps more efficient means that reach patients who face the greatest barriers to care.

We actively seek new partners who see opportunity in taking innovative cornea care ideas or technologies to impact at a global scale. If you are interested in partnering with SightLife to advance an innovation, please email us at info@SightLife.org.