​A buyout announcement today from Morrisville medical imaging company Bioptigen is the latest evidence that support from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center can be important.

The 2004 Duke University spinout, which makes specialized high-resolution imaging devices for non-invasive diagnoses of eye diseases and other medical applications, has reached agreement to be purchased by German powerhouse Leica Microsystems.

Leica Microsystems, based in Wetzlar, Germany, a global leader in microscopy and imaging systems, said it’s buying Bioptigen to strengthen its position in the ophthalmology market. Bioptigen is a technology leader in the field of optical coherence tomography (OCT), a form of computerized imaging that Leica wants to incorporate into its surgical microscopes to assist ophthalmologists during eye surgery.

The companies declined to disclose the terms of the agreement, though it’s not expected to lead to a reduction in Bioptigen’s workforce.

Duke-discovered tech shows eye tissue in real time

Bioptigen currently markets the FDA-cleared Envisu C2300 OCT for doctors to use during surgical procedures, including handheld and pediatric applications, as well as advanced ophthalmic OCT imaging systems for preclinical research globally.

The non-invasive system is especially useful for detecting and monitoring changes in eye tissue such as retinal thickness, which helps physicians track such conditions as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Bioptigen was co-founded by Duke scientists Eric Buckland, Ph.D., and Joseph Izatt, Ph.D. Buckland is president and CEO of the company, and Izatt is chairman and chief scientific officer.

NCBiotech support helped pave way to funding, sale

NCBiotech helped bootstrap the company in 2005 with a $17,575 Business Development Loan. A $100,000 Collaborative Funding Grant to Duke a year later, in which the young Bioptigen was a partner, helped advance the technology. The Center awarded Bioptigen a $458,000 Strategic Growth Loan in 2014 to help the company groom for additional funding.

The Center funding helped open the door to nearly $10.5 million in additional outside revenue, including about $9 million in federal grants and $1.5 million from a 2011 round of venture capital investment.

“We are delighted to join Leica Microsystems,” Buckland said of the deal. “Together, we believe we can jointly leverage our ophthalmic imaging technologies, address broader research and clinical markets, and more efficiently complete the next steps in integrating OCT imaging capabilities into the operating room.”

Heinrich Dreyer, vice president of Leica Microsystems’ medical division, said, “Adding Bioptigen’s OCT capabilities to our surgical microscopes directly addresses our customers’ requirement for better decision-making tools. Bioptigen brings great products and expertise, and will be an important contributor to our growth in the ophthalmology market.”

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center

Note: Veteran journalist Jim Shamp is director of public relations for the N.C. Biotechnology Center.