One of the most important global health issues is vision loss. A Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study in 2019, found that 253.08 million people had moderate vision impairment, 33.78 million people had severe vision impairment, and 41.91 million people worldwide were blind.
China, especially due to its large population, has a large number of people who suffer from moderate-to-severe vision impairment or blindness, reducing their quality of life and increasing their risk of death. Currently, more than 17.5 million people in China are visually impaired. Previous studies have identified refractive errors and cataracts as the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness in China. With the population ageing and the rise in obesity and diabetes, age-related eye diseases and diabetic retinopathy have been continuously increasing. Notably, eye disease has been observed to be more common in women than in men.
The rise in eye disease has spurred a demand for cataract surgery. The cataract surgery rates in China are significantly lower than in other Asian countries due to the lack of surgeons and unawareness. In China, only 25% of surgeons are qualified to perform cataract surgery and many of them are concentrated in urban regions. Therefore, they cannot reach the 60 to 70% of Chinese citizens in rural areas who do not have adequate access to healthcare resources and are often unaware of the implications of vision impairment. However, China's rapid economic development has improved healthcare infrastructure and contributed to increased surgery rates.
The field of ophthalmology itself is experiencing an era of rapid and continuous technological advancements in all areas including diagnostic, surgical and vision care devices. This development of ophthalmic devices, like femtosecond lasers and laser photocoagulation, has been helpful in improving accuracy in the eye surgery process.
China’s ophthalmic laser market is expected to grow at CAGR of 10.2%. Nd:YAG lasers and femtosecond lasers are top investment pockets due to their high precision and accuracy in the treatment of cataract and glaucoma, two very prevalent diseases in China.
A different area showing promising investment potential is the IOL market. China’s IOL market size was previously $478 million and is expected to reach $1086 million by the end of 2026 with a CAGR of 11.8%. The IOLs segment and premium IOLs, especially, have witnessed significant improvements recently. Alcon leads the global IOL segment share, followed by Johnson& Johnson and Bausch&Lomb. Introduction of new and advanced glaucoma shunts facilitate the elimination of eye drops. Some of the major players in this particular area include Iridex, Ellex Medicals, Glaukos, and Alcon.
Another rising development within the field to consider would be the usage of artificial intelligence for diagnosis. AI and big data have been on the rise in the eye care sector, and their implementation in the near future is very probable due to their immense benefits. The AI reports are useful for clinicians to determine the level of severity of any number of diseases affecting the eye. Companies like Iridex developed their first FDA approved product IDx-DR, that uses AI to detect greater than mild levels of diabetic retinopathy in adults with diabetes. Other companies making use of this technology are Eyenuk (EyeArt AI screening system) and IRIS (Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems).
The major participants in the ophthalmic device market include Abbott Laboratories, Novartis AG, Carl Zeiss Meditech AG, Johnson & Johnson, Topcon Corporation, and HAAG-Streit Holding AG.
Bridge Point Capital is a private equity firm based in New York, with a focus on U.S.-Asia cross-border investments. We specialize in investing in disruptive mid- to late-stage healthcare companies that can benefit from penetrating the vast, yet unexplored Asian healthcare market. We aim to leverage our expertise in both healthcare and capital markets, to establish a lucrative investment platform for our investors.