On the new-product front, Essilor’s primary technology roll-out of the year was a new preventive lens offering selective protection against harmful blue light and ultraviolet (UV) radiation
that can damage retinal cells and contribute to the development
of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) cataracts.
The lens, Crizal Prevencia, is the product of a two-year research project that Essilor conducted in partnership with Paris Vision Institute, one of Europe’s largest eye health research centers.
The combined team was able to identify the portion of the visible
light spectrum that is noxious to retinal cells. In order to identify
the part of the spectrum that is damaging to the human retina, an
in-vitro test on retinal cells with narrow screening light exposure
to determine the harmfulness of rays depending on their wavelength was developed. This test—a scientific first in ophthalmic
optics, according to the company—allowed for the discovery that
wavelengths between 415 and 455 nanometers (nm) are the most
harmful for the target retinal cells.
Crizal Prevencia lenses are designed to protect eyes from
wavelengths that contribute to the degeneration of retinal cells
while allowing beneficial blue light to pass through. The lens was
developed using Light Scan, an exclusive technology that filters
out harmful blue-violet rays that can contribute to AMD, as well
as UV rays, an important cause of cataracts, while maintaining
the transparency of the lens.
According to figures cited by Essilor, the battle against irreversible eye conditions is targeted at the entire population, but
primarily the 1.3 billion children around the world and the 1.9
billion people older than 45 who currently are more vulnerable
to blue-violet light. During childhood, the eye is very transparent
and lets all visible light and some UV pass through to the retina.
After 45, the retina’s natural defense system is weakened; there
will be 3. 7 billion people worldwide older than 45 in 2050.
During Fiscal 2013, Essilor created the Vision Impact Institute—a group that will act as a global connector of knowledge,
data and solutions for vision correction. The institute’s mission is
to raise awareness about the socioeconomic impact of poor vision
and to foster research where needed. Today’s most widespread
disability, impaired vision, affects 4.2 billion worldwide, of whom
2.5 billion have no access to corrective measures.
The World Health Organization estimates that 30 percent of
young people in the world under the age of 18 reportedly suffer
from uncorrected refractive error, which often is not diagnosed
due to lack of awareness or access to care. This proportion rises
to 33 percent in the labor force, 37 percent among elderly people
and 23 percent among motorists, according to the World Bank
and research conducted by the Boston Consulting Group.
The global economic impact is significant. Billions of dollars in
productivity are reportedly lost every year, including $50 billion in
Europe, $7 billion in Japan, and $22 billion in the United States—
even though there are solutions to correct most of the impaired
vision cases. The annual global cost of productivity loss—about
$275 billion—corresponds to providing an eye exam for half of
the current world population. According to the Vision Impact In-
stitute, simple measures might drastically reduce the economic
consequences of impaired vision and also the social ones, even
though the cost, level of access to care, and awareness differs by
country. The institute, which is based in Paris, is guided by an in-
dependent advisory board of international vision experts.
16. Novartis (Alcon)
$5.69 Billion ($57.9 B total)
Joseph Jimenez, CEO, Novartis
Jeff George, Global Head, Alcon
Sabri Markabi, Chief Medical Officer, Sr. VP, Research
& Development, Alcon
Ed McGough, Sr. VP, Global Manufacturing and Technical
Sue Whitfill, Head, Global Quality, Alcon
NO. OF EMPLOYEES: 25,500 ( 135,000 total)
GlObAl;HeAdquArters: Basel, Switzerland
Here’s a startling fact. About 800 million people world- wide live with some form of visual impairment, and nearly 40 million of them are blind. Yet at least 90 percent of vision problems or blindness can be prevented, treated or
cured—if people have access to treatment.
Cataracts cause more than half of all cases of blindness and
about one-third of all visual impairment today. A clouding of the
lens inside the eye, cataracts are a natural part of growing older
and predominantly affect people over the age of 55, according
to the National Institutes of Health. Cataracts sufferers compare
vision to seeing life through a cloudy window—objects are often
blurred and colors may be dull. In addition, seeing at night can
be more difficult.
The World Health Organization estimates that by the year
2020 more than 32 million cataract procedures will be carried out
worldwide each year.
Officials at Alcon, the eye care division of Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant Novartis, view these numbers as not
just market opportunity but as an imperative.
“We’re looking for areas of big unmet patient need where genuine technological innovation can make a real difference in their
lives,” said Kevin Buehler, Division Head of Alcon.“Our mission is
to provide products that enhance quality of life by helping people
see better.” Bueher retired from the company in 2014 after a 30-
year career at Alcon. He was replaced by Jeff George who previously had been a division head at the Sandoz division of Novartis.
During surgery, an ophthalmic surgeon removes the clouded
lens of the eye and replaces it with an artificial intraocular lens.
It’s a common, safe and cost-effective procedure. But there re-