In January, CooperVision, Inc. announced the creation of its Specialty Eye Care business unit, which encompasses Soflex, Procornea and Paragon Vision Sciences. These companies, which CooperVision acquired within the last two years, design and manufacture highly specialized contact lenses for the management of myopia and other indications. Juan Carlos Aragon, OD, has been named president of the new business. In this interview, he discusses how the new business unit fits within the overall CooperVision structure and how this will benefit ODs.
Jeffrey Eisenberg: Is the new Specialty Eye Care business a part of CooperVision or does it operate separately?
Juan Carlos Aragon: It’s a CooperVision-owned business, but at the same time, it functions somewhat independently from our core business. With the creation of a separate business unit, we now have a management team dedicated solely to Specialty Eye Care, which enables us to really focus on building this area of the business.
JE: Do the three companies that make up the Specialty Eye Care business—Soflex, Procornea and Paragon Vision Sciences—still operate as separate entities, or are they now part of this new business?
JCA: They are wholly owned subsidiaries of CooperVision. CooperVision acquired these three companies over the past 18 months, and they will continue to function independently, maintaining their corporate names. From an organizational standpoint, the three companies report to me. Although we will share certain resources, expertise, technologies, and so forth, each one of these companies will be maintained as a separate, standalone organization.
JE: With the acquisitions, you’ll have access to Paragon’s Corneal Refractive Therapy (CRT) contact lenses, Procornea’s orthokeratology lenses and Soflex’s specialty lenses. Are these business areas that you plan to actively pursue? For example, there’s been a lot of interest in using orthokeratology lenses to slow the progression of myopia in children.
JCA: Overall, myopia management is an area of interest for CooperVision. We’ve been investing resources in this area for many years now. The acquisition of Procornea and Paragon complements our myopia management strategy.
JE: Will these acquisitions make more products for managing myopia available to optometrists in the U.S.?
JCA: Yes. We will be able to leverage CooperVision’s resources to make these innovative products available to a larger number of U.S. eyecare practitioners.
JE: What other research areas does the Specialty Eye Care business plan to explore?
JCA: Myopia management is probably our number one opportunity in the Specialty Eye Care business. But closely behind that, we are quite interested in scleral contact lenses. The usage of scleral lenses is increasing significantly worldwide, and North America is not an exception. This is an area that we are exploring through Paragon, Procornea and other potential partners in that arena.
We are not limiting our potential portfolio of products to contact lenses alone. We plan to explore additional technologies related to contact lenses. Contact lens-related dry eye, as an example, is an area of interest to us. We are open to exploring the licensing, development and acquisition of products and technology that make the contact lens-wearing experience more successful for the patients of our ODs around the world.
JE: What advice do you have for ODs to grow the contact lens portion of their practices despite competition from alternative retailers?
JCA: CooperVision has always worked very closely with eyecare practitioners to make sure that our products are dispensed appropriately and fit appropriately by eyecare practitioners for their patients.
Now, CooperVision has the ability to make an even larger portfolio of offerings—Specialty Eye Care products—available to eyecare practitioners across North America. These are lenses that are not normally available through alternative channels of distribution, because they absolutely require a professional fit and more interaction between doctor and patient. It is less of a commoditized business.