Passion when combined with vision can do wonders. CorNeat Vision was a result of a passion and vision of Dr. Gilad Litvin, which was formed with a goal of developing, producing, and introducing to global markets a scalable artificial solution for global corneal blindness, while eliminating the dependency on donor tissue.
Dr. Litvin serves as the Chairman and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the company. Besides, he is also the inventor of the company’s core solutions including the CorNeat KPro, the CorNeat eShunt (a glaucoma drainage device) and the CorNeat EverPatch (a scleral patch).
An interview conducted between CIO Look and Dr. Litvin sheds light on the entrepreneurial career of Dr. Litvin, his approach towards leadership, and how CorNeat Vision promotes human health, sustainability and equality worldwide.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience on your professional journey, up to your current leadership position.
I started my medical career as a medic in the Israel Defence Forces. During my service, I gained experience with both trauma under fire and ongoing care of personnel within a combat unit. Several years following my discharge, I began my studies at the Hadassah Medical School, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, and continued on to a residency in Ophthalmology at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar-Saba, Israel, under the supervision of Professor Ehud I. Assia. After successfully completing my residency, I honed my expertise as a surgical retina fellow for two years gaining in depth knowledge of diagnosis, medical management and surgical applications in retinal diseases.
During my fellowship, I learned of sophisticated material technology applied to other medical fields as innovative solutions for complicated medical conditions. I immediately began brainstorming ways these new materials could be utilized for ophthalmic conditions and surgical challenges.
The first patent I drafted, in 2011, while specializing in retinal surgery, entailed a solution for glaucoma. My idea utilized nanomaterials as a novel approach to a long-standing unmet need in ophthalmology. The invention and corresponding development work, involving trials with a novel glaucoma shunt in a successful Proof-of-Concept, were awarded first prize for Medical Devices at Israel’s 2017 MIXiiii BioMed conference.
I quickly realized innovative medical solutions were my passion, with a focus on research and development of medical devices. Shortly thereafter, I transitioned away from the public medical system to dedicate significant time to this newfound professional avenue.
In 2015 I co-founded CorNeat Vision with Mr. Almog Aley-Raz, after inventing our flagship product the CorNeat KPro – an artificial cornea.
I was introduced to the dramatic and quite common effects of corneal blindness during my residency. Corneal blindness impacts millions of people worldwide and has no scalable, suitable solution. Leveraging my previous research, I set out to develop an artificial, long-lasting, scalable solution for corneal blindness.
CorNeat Vision began as a one-product company. With time and following extensive research, we added additional products to our line-up, which offer solutions to a host of unmet needs. All of these products leverage the same biomimetic technology.
Besides my role at the company, I continue to work as an active ophthalmic surgeon at the Ein Tal Eye Center.
I try to find a balance between practicing medicine and advancing the work at CorNeat Vision, with the underlying goal of shifting my entire focus away from the clinic to research, development and entrepreneurship.
Brief us about your company and its prominent products/solutions/services that make you a preferred choice over your competition.
CorNeat Vision is a clinical-stage company whose core nondegradable biomimetic material technology enables bio-mechanical integration and concealment of synthetic materials in live human tissue. Coupled with innovative ideas, our technology is poised to revolutionize implant design, tissue repair and reinforcement of tissue in diversified therapeutics.
Our platform mimics the micro-structure of the Extracellular Matrix (ECM) – the natural biological collagen mesh, which provides structural and biochemical support to surrounding cells. When implanted, our material stimulates cellular proliferation, leading to progressive tissue integration.
Our products are 100% synthetic and cannot carry disease. Further, they effectively bio-integrate and heal far faster than other solutions which rely on tissue, rendering our solutions scalable.
Our initial set of biomimetic implants address unmet needs in the field of ophthalmology and periodontology. Solutions include an artificial cornea, a synthetic tissue substitute for ophthalmic and gingival recession surgeries, and a glaucoma drainage device with IP for additional devices.
What is your idea of impactful leadership? What style of leadership do you personally prefer and have implemented at your company?
Vision is key in leadership.
When I set out to build my company, I had already drafted and submitted a patent for the artificial cornea. The submission of a new patent is the culmination of months of hard work. I envisioned, in rough terms, both the implant and the implantation procedure and truly believed I had a winning solution. Being a medical professional for many years my core values of promoting health and equality through working with underprivileged societies was also an important goal I had.
Vision, however, is just the beginning. Vision needs development through collaboration. While trying to raise seed capital I approached my partner, CorNeat Vision’s CEO, Almog Aley-Raz, a long-time friend, who complements me in many fields. We have since been able to manage and lead the company in harmonious cooperation.
A leader must promote an active learning process in his team and advance personal development of his staff while making sure all employees feel included and united. When forming a team, a leader works inclusively, in cooperation, leveraging individual talent and mutual inspiration to achieve excellence.
Taking into consideration, the current pandemic, and its impact on global economies, how are you driving your company to sustain operations and ensuring safety of your associates and employees at the same time?
The COVID-19 pandemic halted clinical trials for two of our products. During the elapsed time we worked diligently on submitting the different trials’ proposals to health authorities in various countries and attained additional approvals in other countries. To support the delay and continued efforts to advance the company where possible, we had to initiate a bridge-funding round. This fundraising round was deemed a success and allowed us to get through this difficult period.
To facilitate the immediate initiation of clinical trials once limitations are lifted, we partnered with two companies and successfully implemented an on-demand Remote Surgeon Virtual Presence (RSVP) solution to successfully perform remote supervised hands-on training of our Canadian cornea experts located at the Kensington Eye Institute in Toronto, without leaving our offices. The solution, which was engineered to address COVID-19 travel restrictions, enabled initiation of the Canadian clinical site toward first implantations of the CorNeat KPro artificial cornea.
What would be your advice for the emerging and aspiring business leaders?
Keep your sight on the goal and remain calculated, diligent and determined. Improvise, be creative and apply your ideas after testing them systematically. Be lean in your organization yet know when to take risks and spend funds. And always remember it is all about people.
What have you envisioned for yourself and your company to sustain its market position in the future?
I see a company that continuously grows, expanding its reach in the medical device space. I believe our technology has the ability to transform the field of implantable technology in ways we are yet to discover.