Verily, Santen See Ophthalmology Opportunity Via New Joint Venture

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Verily, the life sciences spinout of Google parent Alphabet, has inked a deal with a Japanese ophthalmology company to develop digital tools and technologies to improve eye health.

Santen Pharmaceutical, which is based in Osaka, has a global industrial and commercial ophthalmology business. Teaming up with Verily will enable it to apply the South San Francisco tech outfit’s know-how when it comes to integrated medical devices and machine learning to coming up with new ways to improve eye health, the companies said Tuesday.

Together the companies plan to use technology to pursue new kinds of diagnostics, better treatments, and more precise medical interventions. The joint venture will create and commercialize unique ophthalmic devices and tech-enabled solutions for a range of ophthalmic conditions, including glaucoma and dry eye.

Dimitri Azar, Verily’s senior director of ophthalmic innovation, is the joint venture’s CEO-designate.

Santen conducts develops, markets, and sells pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter products, and medical devices to patients in about 60 countries. The company is Japan’s market leader for prescription ophthalmic pharmaceuticals.

Verily, launched in 2015, regularly partners with healthcare companies with the aim of developing new products and services. At the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January, this first at which the company made a public presentation, Verily reported 32 partnerships. Among its collaborators are major biopharmas, including Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Sanofi (NASDAQ: SNY), and Novartis (NYSE: NVS). It is also working with diabetes device maker Dexcom (NASDAQ: DXCM) on a new continuous glucose monitoring system for people with type 2 diabetes.

“I think there are a lot of technology companies that can come in and it’s all open space, and create something,” Jessica Mega, Verily’s chief medical officer, told Xconomy at JPM. “In areas where we could do that, we’re happy to, but in many cases, deeply partnering around a solution is going to be the best way to get solutions to patients quickly.”

Although the company remains an Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) subsidiary, last year it took $1 billion in outside funding in a round led by private equity giant Silver Lake.