SEE3 project – the international collaboration which created the world’s first true extended wear contact lens

How to realise the holy grail of the contact lens industry

Yvette Waddell
Brien Holden Vision Institute

Arthur Ho
Brien Holden Vision Institute

Stephen Davis
Brien Holden Vision Institute

Outcomes and impact of the case
The result of this collaboration was a lens containing both silicone and hydrogel polymers in a structure which allows the lens to transmit higher levels of oxygen, as well as water, both of which are essential for ocular health.

• The ‘silicone hydrogel’ lens received CE Mark approval in 1999 for up to 30-night extended wear and US FDA approval in 2001. It was released as the Focus Night & Day lens by Ciba Vision.
• There are an estimated 140 million contact lens wearers in the world now and the silicone hydrogel class of material that was first developed with this lens now accounts for over 50% of all contact lens sales globally.
• CRCERT embarked on a major educational roadshow to educate optometrists about these new lenses and established a website about the material as an evidence-based resources for practitioners.
• The advent of the lenses coincided with a major growth in contact lens sales, with the number of wearers estimated to have grown from around 25 million in 1986 to 140 million now.
• The lenses have brought in an estimated $25 billion in sales and generated $300 million in royalties for the research partners.
• Litigation by competitor Bausch & Lomb, who released their own 30-night extended wear PureVisionTM lens shortly after Ciba Vision, and proceeded for several years, was finally resolved in 2004, with B&L agreeing to pay royalties to Ciba Vision on sales of its PureVision lenses.

The impact on the researchers involved with UNSW has been immense. Several of the CRC partners channelled royalties from the Ciba Vision product into an independent but university-affiliated research institute – what is now known as the Brien Holden Vision Institute. The collaboration gave this group the experience and confidence to pursue further projects with industry. Brien Holden Vision Institute was the lead participant in the Vision CRC (2003-2015), co-developing several more commercial eye care products.

The Brien Holden Vision Institute has invested these royalties into further translational research and education programs. It also expanded its remit to include those who are vision impaired because they are unable to access an eye examination and pair of spectacles. These public health initiatives have resulted in:

• More than 3 million people in over 50 countries receiving an eye examination or pair of glasses;
• Helped train around 140,000 eye care personnel;
• Supported 18 optometry schools to help build sustainable eye care systems.

Ciba Vision and CRCERT decided to create a spin-off company (BioCure) to commercialise other intellectual property generated though the collaboration. To date this has yet to produce a successful commercial product.