Euan Thomson, Head of the Ophthalmology Strategic Business Unit and Head of the Digital Business Unit at Carl Zeiss Meditec, discusses plans for the company's vitreoretinal surgery workflows following announcement of DORC acquisition
In late 2023, Carl Zeiss Meditec AG announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of the shares in Dutch Ophthalmic Research Center (DORC). An established innovator in the retinal surgery market, DORC launched its dual-function EVA NEXUS platform in 2022. The EVA NEXUS is a notable device for vitreoretinal (VR) surgeons, and expected to be a major component of the Zeiss portfolio going forward.
Euan S. Thomson, PhD, Head of the Ophthalmology Strategic Business Unit and Head of the Digital Business Unit for Zeiss Medical Technology, spoke with Ophthalmology Times Europe about the acquisition. He provided insights on how DORC's technologies fit into the Zeiss workflow and hinted at the data ophthalmologists can expect from the company at conferences throughout 2024.
Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Hattie Hayes, editor, Ophthalmology Times Europe: Tell me about how this this acquisition of the Dutch Ophthalmic Research Center reflects the Zeiss approach to comprehensive workflow solutions.
Euan Thomson, Zeiss Meditec: We are the most extensive device company in the ophthalmology space. We have the broadest range of products, and that's for a reason. We are committed to not just providing technology, but providing digitally connected, integrated workflows that reflect the needs of our customers, as they treat their patients. What DORC offers is strategic to one of our important workflows, which is the retinal surgery workflow. We have a presence in that space through our diagnostic devices and microscopes, for example. But what we'd like to offer is a fully integrated procedure. And for that, we need access to all technologies that are used in this procedure. Vitrectomy, for example, is a critical part of the retinal surgery procedure, and it is currently a gap in our portfolio. So, we feel when this acquisition closes, we'll be able to bring everything necessary to market to this group of customers. At that time, we’ll be able to start working on integration, and creating a very streamlined workflow inside the operating room, because we’ll have more direct access to all the necessary pieces of technology.
Hattie Hayes: In the years ahead, what are some of the advances you're excited to facilitate in the vitreoretinal surgery space?
Euan Thomson: The best way to answer that is to point to what we've already done in the cataract space. We have now a fully integrated offering, not just for the operating room, but for the entire treatment workflow for lens replacement. We have devices that will help our customers assess the lenses of their patients in advance, we have software that will enable them to select the right artificial lens, and to transfer information pretreatment from the planning phase into the operating room.
And then in the operating room, we now have a fully integrated device and software set, which really streamlines and simplifies the way in which a treatment is delivered. We also have software with embedded artificial intelligence that can help surgeons to standardise across practices to enhance the surgical skills that are brought to bear in a procedure. So that reflects our vision for what we'd like to do throughout ophthalmology, whether it's in the surgical space, or the nonsurgical management of chronic disease. We want to provide a level of digital integration, that results in a very streamlined, very efficient, very productive workflow. And in the end, we believe that we can help to improve outcomes for patients. So that's our vision for the retinal surgery space as well: technology is our building blocks and we're working to create an integrated workflow that uses those building blocks. And, in that way, with full digital integration, we will be able to enhance the treatment itself.
Hattie Hayes: I know that the Zeiss team is excited about the capabilities of the EVA NEXUS tool from DORC. How does this technology fit into the Zeiss portfolio?
Euan Thomson: It fits right in the middle. We are very focused on building capabilities in the retinal surgery space. We have our phaco device, which we're very committed to, and we believe in quite strongly, for the cataract space. And once the acquisition is complete, we’ll have work to do before we determine how we’ll manage the interface between the two solutions to fill our gap in retinal surgery procedures, but we really like the flexibility of the DORC platform. Likewise, we'll also manage any overlap with existing products – we'll manage that over time.
Hattie Hayes: Can you speak to any advancements that Zeiss will be sharing at meetings throughout 2024?
Euan Thomson: There are certain themes developing, which we have spoken about in the past, which is an ongoing effort on our part to demonstrate what we call the "value evidence" of our workflows. We've worked very hard on developing these integrated digital workflows over the past years. And now we're at the phase where we're really starting to see the significant results of the added value of these digital workflows.
The most advanced is cataract. We've spoken publicly now about some of the early evidence we've gathered in terms of speeding things up in the operating room, reducing the number of touch points from the staff in the run-up to the surgical procedure, and the overall time-savings, both preoperatively and in the operating room. We're very focused on now demonstrating the value of these workflows. We hope customers will continue to invest in this workflow concept. They're very excited by it, and our feedback is excellent. But we recognise as well that we need to demonstrate that there's deep value there for physicians and patients. Over the next year, you can expect more and more of that data to start to materialise.
In the end, the intersection point of all these different procedures and disease management processes is the patient. We don't see that these things should happen in isolation. The fact that many of these procedures and disease management processes actually do intersect speaks to the value of having multiple workflows, all based on the same digital platform with the same type of connectivity. The kind of insights that we'll gather from having the aggregation of data across all of ophthalmology, we think that that's a really exciting thing that will develop over time as well. We believe that what we're doing will be transformative for ophthalmology, not just in the surgical space, but also in the chronic disease management space.