In his ophthalmology practice, Surgical Eye Care in Wilmington, Alan Brown, M.D., is “always bumping up against things that could be done better.”

As he performs cataract and refractive surgeries, inevitably a need will arise, he says, “and voilà, an invention idea appears.”

Brown, an impassioned inventor in his off hours, has transformed two of those ideas into award-winning product innovations – a self-illuminating speculum and a corneal marking system – designed to make eye surgeries more efficient and accurate, improving patient outcomes.

The two inventions are the first products sold by Surgilūm, an ophthalmic device company Brown founded to design, make and sell products that solve common surgical challenges. Brown is CEO of the Wilmington-based company, and his wife Debbie, is president.

In May Surgilūm introduced its Photon Speculum, the first-ever self-illuminating eye speculum, which will be commercially available later this year. A single-use corneal transilluminator magnetically attaches to a speculum, an instrument used to keep a patient’s eye open during an examination or surgery. The light illuminates the eye’s anterior segment, enabling surgeons to see greater details for improved surgical outcomes.

Compared to using a microscope light during ophthalmic surgeries, the Photon Speculum reduces glare, helping surgeons see details they have never seen before, the company said. Its tangential light – light shined from an angle – also avoids the risk of retinal phototoxicity.

In a news release, Karl Stonecipher, M.D., medical director of TLC Greensboro, a LASIK surgery center, called Surgilūm’s Photon Speculum “a real game changer” that allows him to see a more granular level of detail on the eye.

“This new product makes me more efficient and gives me greater confidence during surgery,” said Stonecipher, who serves on Surgilūm’s medical advisory board. “It is such a powerful, vast improvement over traditional technology that I cannot envision performing surgery without it.”

The product is 510(k) exempt, meaning it does not require review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before being marketed.

Surgilūm’s other product, called the RoboMarker, is a self-leveling corneal marker used in cataract and other refractive surgeries. It has a gravity-based system that holds a given axis to within one degree of accuracy, allowing the surgeon to focus on marking rather than on keeping the marking device level.

RoboMarker makes corneal marking faster, with well-defined marks that last up to two hours, the company said. It saves about five to eight minutes per surgical case.

“RoboMarker provides a highly affordable way to mark patients’ eyes accurately and efficiently with a long-lasting mark that stays until the patient has been prepped and draped,” said Jonathan Solomon, M.D., of Solomon Eye Associates in Greenbelt, Md. “It is a great product that pays dividends of time savings in marking and in the operating room.”

A newly introduced formula makes RoboMarker’s marking visible in infrared light during femtosecond cataract laser surgery.

RoboMarker is FDA approved and has a CE mark for sale in Europe.

RoboMarker was recognized by Outpatient Surgery News as one of the top innovations at the 2014 American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery meeting.

Surgilūm commercialized RoboMarker technology with the help of a $75,000 Small Business Research Loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in 2014.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center