A Look at Contamac
BY JASON J. NICHOLS, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
Robert McGregor, Managing Director, Contamac Ltd.
This month, we focus on Contamac Ltd., a U.K.-based material manufacturer for the contact lens and intraocular lens (IOL) industries. I recently had the pleasure to speak with Managing Director Robert McGregor.
Q Mr. McGregor, please tell us a bit about your company in terms of its history and direction.
Contamac is now in its 29th year. The business was founded by my father, John McGregor, who is still its chairman. Contamac is what we in the U.K. would call a true “garden shed” story: it started in John’s back garden in our family home in 1987, and we’ve never looked back since.
Our core business has always been material manufacturing. The first product manufactured was a 38% HEMA material for the contact lens industry. We’ve introduced many developments for that industry and also expanded to be a material provider for the IOL industry. In 1997, we developed a foldable hydrophilic acrylic CI26 material for the IOL industry; in 2004, we launched the Optimum GP materials; and, in 2008, we launched Definitive, the first latheable silicone hydrogel (SiHy) material. We now manufacture more than 250 different materials for all contact lens and IOL applications.
We recently finished relocating our headquarters and manufacturing plant into a 35,000-square-foot purpose-built facility in Saffron Waldon, England. We manufacture in excess of 13 million finished blanks, but the business is set to take that to 18 million as needed. We have a U.S. subsidiary, which is primarily a sales, marketing, and distribution center for the business. We are engaged with a range of distributors in different parts of the world, and we also have an office based in Shanghai.
We received a medical design excellence award in 2008 for one of our polymers, and in 2012, we won the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the International Trade category. We also just received our second Queen’s Award for Enterprise, this time for Innovation in SiHy materials.
Q Tell us about any new products or new developments in which Contamac is involved.
Research and development has always been the lifeblood of our business. One of the primary reasons for relocating was to provide a significant increase in resources to our R&D team. As a small- to medium-size enterprise, we’re proud to reinvest about 15% to 20% of our revenues back into our research program.
Our team of chemists is currently working on SiHy and GP projects for the contact lens industry. We also are looking at new hydrogel materials and the next generation of IOL materials. We’re researching technologies related to surface chemistry as well as frequent lens replacement. What we cannot lose sight of is our focus on providing our finished lens manufacturers with new options and opportunities.
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).
I believe there’s huge opportunity in the specialty lens industry. The daily disposable segment will continue to grow, but I don’t think that takes away the opportunity for the specialty lens segment.
In the short-term, scleral lenses will continue to play quite a part. Presbyopia needs to remain a focus for everyone in the industry. I think we’ll also see developments in frequent replacement lathed lenses. I sense a lot of optimism around the industry; these are very exciting times for us all.
I believe the long-term success is going to be driven by research and development and by innovation. We feel that ultimately, partnership with academia is going to be important. We’re hungry for information, that’s part of the DNA of this business. CLS
Mr. McGregor expresses his thanks to the industry and to Contamac’s customers for their support.
Dr. Nichols is an assistant vice president for industry research development and professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham 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 from Johnson & Johnson Vision Care.