Innovation in Focus: Greg Kunst, CEO of Aurion Biotech
March 25, 2022 – Aurion Biotech is a clinical-stage biotech company developing a platform of innovative, accessible, and effective eye care therapies. The company's first candidate is a patented cell therapy treatment for corneal endothelial disease. With this therapy, the cells from a single donor can be multiplied to treat up to 100 diseased eyes.
Aurion won the Best in Show award for cornea at the Eyecelerator ophthalmic innovation conference in November 2021. CEO Greg Kunst talks about his start in eye care, where his company is headed, and how participating at Eyecelerator benefits innovators looking to make a meaningful impact in ophthalmology.
Greg, what initially drew you to ophthalmology?
I grew up in an eye care family. My father was a serial entrepreneur in the optometric space for many years. I've never been interested in anything but eyes!
How did you learn about Eyecelerator?
The concept caught my interest when it was first being developed by ASCRS and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Successful innovation can only be brought about in partnership between academia, venture capital, drug developers, engineers on the device side, trial sites, and key opinion leaders. Without this ecosystem of different players, great transformation can’t happen.
What Eyecelerator does well is bring together the key components and get all the right people in the room to talk about unmet needs in ophthalmology. Then we can start solving those problems.
What impact has Aurion seen from showcasing at Eyecelerator and ultimately winning Best in Show for the cornea segment?
We were very proud to announce the award and leveraged the recognition through our PR channels. It's a gift that keeps on giving!
Like every start-up CEO, I spend a good deal of time figuring out how to fundraise. The opportunity to be front and center across the broad spectrum of ophthalmology not only drives awareness, but also helps to validate our potential in the market and offers an additional layer of credibility in the investment community.
Many companies find the fundraising and regulatory processes utterly mystifying. I was struck at the Eyecelerator meeting by how pragmatic and helpful that entire environment was. It's really set up to help companies, especially start-ups, begin to understand what's expected as they run the gauntlet of raising capital and meeting regulatory requirements.
What's next for Aurion?
We're 100% focused on opening clinical trials in the United States, and in 2023 we hope to dose our first U.S. patient [with a patented cell therapy treatment for corneal endothelial disease]. We've performed this procedure outside the US in over 100 patients, some more than five years ago, and the results are remarkable. Our goal is to bring this life-changing therapy to patients around the world.
- Interview by Mark Reynolds