A Look at SynergEyes, Inc.
BY JASON J. NICHOLS, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
James K. Kirchner, OD, president and CEO, SynergEyes, Inc.
The subject of this month’s Industry Focus is SynergEyes, Inc. SynergEyes is currently the only company to offer hybrid contact lenses, which feature GP centers and soft skirts. I recently had the pleasure to speak with the company’s president and CEO, James K. Kirchner, OD.
Q Dr. Kirchner, please tell us a bit about your company in terms of its history and direction.
SynergEyes was founded in 2001, when Dr. Jerome Legerton and Joe Collins came together to develop a hybrid contact lens that did not suffer from the junction cracking and splitting that had plagued previous hybrid lens designs; they succeeded and patented the technology. Then, in 2005, the original SynergEyes lens entered the market. The first generation of SynergEyes lenses, which we call our legacy products, has a 100 Dk GP center with a 9.4 Dk HEMA soft skirt.
Our second-generation lenses include the Duette line, which launched in 2010 as a premium lens for everyday wearers, and UltraHealth, a lens for irregular corneas that entered the market in 2012. These lenses feature a hyper-Dk (130) GP center and an 84 Dk silicone hydrogel soft skirt that was redesigned to provide more robust tear circulation.
The company comprises two distinct divisions: one for vision correction of regular corneas and one for irregular corneas. Synerg-Eyes currently has partnerships with global distributors in 14 countries. Our products and services are available in more than 64 countries around the world.
Q Tell us about any new products or new developments in which SynergEyes is involved.
Our newest lens is Duette Progressive, a true progressive lens with one zone size and three add powers in a center-near design. We will launch an UltraHealth design for oblate corneas later this year, and we are developing product enhancements and advancements in hybrid technology.
We recently overhauled our lens fitting philosophy. We now recommend a more intuitive, alignment-fitting relationship that, along with the redesigned soft skirt, has helped to solve past issues with tight peripheries. In addition, all of our Duette designs can be fit empirically with flat K, spectacle refraction, and add power for Duette Progressive. We have found that the first empirical pair is successful in 60% of cases.
Since assuming the role of CEO in 2013, I have worked to bring more optometric leadership to the company. Peg Achenbach, OD, FAAO, recently joined SynergEyes as vice president, professional services; Jeff Sonsino, OD, FAAO, recently joined as director, clinical studies.
At the end of last year, we modernized and streamlined many of our policies and customer-facing procedures to make it easier for practitioners to do business with us. We want to create a culture to partner with and help eyecare practitioners.
Q Tell us your vision for the contact lens field in the short term (less than 5 years) and in the long term (20 years from now).
In the short term, the industry is healthy and growing. Silicone hydrogel technology has enhanced that, even though it is not the consummate material it was originally hoped to be. Daily disposable wear will continue to grow, although I believe it will reach a critical mass and level off.
In the long term, I foresee growth in the specialty contact lens market worldwide. I think practitioners are becoming more interested in the art of contact lens fitting and that everyday fitting will start becoming more thoughtful and individual to each patient. If a little more care and a little more thought go into what we’re fitting and how we’re fitting, I think that we’ll see continued growth of the market. CLS
Dr. Nichols is the Kevin McDaid Vision Source Professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry, as well as editor-in-chief of Contact Lens Spectrum and editor of the weekly email newsletter Contact Lenses Today. He has received research funding or lecture honoraria from Vistakon, Alcon, and Allergan.