HARTFORD—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Thursday announced that TECLens, based in Stamford, has been named “Murphy’s Innovator of the Month.” TECLens was founded in 2013 by three partners to provide a non-invasion vision correction alternative to laser surgery and daily-wear contact lenses. Dr. Roy Chuck, David Acker, and Pat Lopath realized that the then emerging technology of corneal crosslinking could be adapted from an expensive capital equipment system for the treatment of the corneal disease keratoconus, to a low-cost system to correct nearsightedness in a single treatment, without cutting or vaporizing tissue. The TECLens corneal crosslinking system uses low energy ultraviolet light delivered from a contact lens, combined with an eye drop that absorbs the UV light, to strengthen and reshape the cornea, improving vision. TECLens believes its innovative technology has many advantages over laser surgery and daily wear contact lenses for most nearsighted patients.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, TECLens made a rapid pivot from ophthalmology to create face shields for donation to frontline health care workers. Through appeals on social media and word of mouth, the company built a network of volunteers, mostly in the Tri-State area, but even as far as Oregon, South Carolina, and Tennessee, with 3D printers willing to help in this effort. Potomac Photonics in Maryland donated it laser cutting time, and TECLens cleaned and assembled the parts in space provided by the River Bend Center in Stamford, where TECLens is based. Donations initially focused on Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, the epicenter of the New York outbreak, but over the month of April, TECLens was also able to distribute to Stamford Hospital, Northwell Northern Westchester, Mt. Sinai, Holy Name in Teaneck, NJ, and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. As the need intensified at Montefiore, and raw materials for 3D printed shields began to dry up, TECLens donated an additional 10,000 shields that it was able to source commercially.
“It has been amazing to see how businesses and startups across Connecticut have stepped up to help those on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. TECLens quickly shifted resources from their emerging innovation in ophthalmology to critical face shields for frontline health workers. Tackling COVID-19 in Connecticut is going to take the ingenuity and resources of everyone, even in unlikely places. I’m proud to highlight TECLens for their breakthroughs in alternative eye surgery and for helping those who are working around the clock to protect our country from this virus. I look forward to watching them continue to grow right here in Connecticut,” said Murphy.
“Connecticut is a great environment for start-up companies. Access to investment capital, availability of innovative talent and proximity to some of the world’s leading hospitals and universities make Connecticut an ideal place to launch from, especially for a medical device start-up,” said COO of TECLens, Pat Lopath.
On TECLens pivoting back to ophthalmology, CEO David Acker said: “We are proud that we were able to contribute in some small manner to the safety of those risking their lives on the front lines. At TECLens, as everywhere, we have a tough road ahead. We had just begun to raise capital to support our clinical studies when COVID-19 forced our course change. But we believe in our innovative technology and have great confidence that others will too.”
Murphy believes entrepreneurship and innovation are the building blocks for a strong economy. In the U.S. Senate, he has introduced two bipartisan pieces of legislation to incentivize angel investors to put more money into startup companies—the Angel Tax Credit Act and the Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act. Startup companies create an average of 2 million jobs each year.