Global Insight

The Partnership Behind Optimum | Tangible Hydra-PEG™

Contamac Ltd and Tangible Science (formerly Ocular Dynamics), in partnership with the independent specialty contact lens manufacturing network, are excited to officially launch Optimum with Tangible Hydra-PEG™ at the Global Specialty Lens Symposium in January 2017.  Available on Optimum Comfort (Dk 60), Extra (Dk 100) and Extreme (Dk 125), Tangible Hydra-PEG™ is a novel contact lens coating technology that encapsulates the Optimum GP material in an ultra thin layer of a PEG-based polymer (polyethylene gylcol). The coating creates a highly wettable surface, with increased surface water retention due to the high water content (90%) of the PEG-based polymer. Additionally, Tangible-Hydra-PEG™ creates an incredibly lubricious surface that resists both protein and lipid deposits, and can reduce the friction caused by the interaction between the lid and contact lens during the blink.

The development of Tangible Hydra-PEG™ and the founding of Tangible Science, began over 6 years ago at Stanford University in California. During his surgical residency, Victor McCray became interested in the development of the tools and devices he used during his medical practice. Wanting to pursue his interest further, he applied and was accepted into the Stanford University BioDesign Innovation fellowship program, an intensive one year program designed to improve health care by indentifying the problems or challenges facing the industry and developing new ways to solve them. On the first day, Victor was partnered with Brandon Felkins, who entered the fellowship with a background in mechanical engineering and over a decade of experience in medical device development and design. It was on that day they learned the clinical focus area of that year’s program – ophthalmology.

The program began with their clinical immersion into the ophthalmology and optometry departments at Stanford Health Care; they shadowed physicians and patients, attended rounds and observed cases in order to learn about the area of focus and begin to identify some of the challenges eye care practitioners faced. One patient complaint kept recurring – contact lens discomfort.

At first the problem had not seemed serious – but as they delved deeper, they realized that although many patients were uncomfortable or reported dry eye symptoms during contact lens wear, there didn’t seem to be any consistent technique or technology to alleviate it. Researching the causes of contact lens discomfort, they found that the available data was limited and difficult to collect because of the many variables in both the causes and the reported symptoms, but the disruption to the ocular surface that contact lenses create, seemed to be at least part of the problem.

If they could find a way to reduce that disruption, they may be able to reduce the discomfort that patients were experiencing while wearing contact lenses.

Around this time, Victor and Brandon met Karen Havenstrite, who was at Stanford working on her PhD in chemical engineering. Her thesis concerned the development of hydrogel materials that could help improve the regenerative properties of muscle stem cells, which involved identifying biocompatible polymers. Victor and Brandon had been looking for polymers that would interface better with the ocular surface and after a conversation about their respective projects, they quickly realized that they should work together.

They began to narrow down common factors of contact lens discomfort found in the available research: – non-wetting materials, protein and lipid deposits on the lens surface, and the friction between the lens and the lid during the blink. With that information, they set out to develop a polymer that could covalently bond to a contact lens surface to remain wettable, deposit resistant and create a slick surface, so the eyelid could glide smoothly over the lens surface.

The Tangible Hydra-PEG™ formulation was soon developed, and they began testing on various soft contact lens materials.  When Tangible Science reached out to Contamac Ltd, they were first interested in the Definitive material, a unique latheable silicone hydrogel. However, Contamac’s extensive material portfolio and well established R&D Department, provided new opportunities to explore in another segment – GP materials. Those materials are rigid, contain silicone and have a low water content – characteristics that could create wetting issues and make them unyielding to the natural movements and friction on eye. While plasma treatment helped with wettability, the benefits were only temporary. Contamac realized the polymers that make up GP materials were well suited for the Tangible Hydra-PEG™ bond. Also, this long established modality would benefit from this new, innovative improvement in surface quality. As Contamac and Tangible Science began to collaborate on GP materials, they quickly realized that GP wearers were often experiencing the greatest benefits with Tangible Hydra-PEG™. During clinical evaluations, Contamac and Tangible Science saw the positive impact they could have on patients’ lives and sensed the growing excitement within the industry for this innovative new contact lens coating.

This motivated them to continue the push to bring it to market, but Tangible Science needed a partner for commercialization – a company with strong relationships with the specialty lens manufacturers that shared Tangible Science’s passion to bring new technologies and innovations to the industry. Contamac’s longtime industry experience and existing partnerships with the custom lens laboratories, in addition to the two years the R&D Departments at Contamac and Tangible Science had spent refining the Tangible Hydra-PEG™ technology, into a process that could be incorporated into the Optimum family of GP materials, made them the perfect partner to move forward with.  They began working to integrate Tangible Hydra-PEG™ into the GP manufacturing process as seamlessly as possible, giving customized contact lens manufacturers a new option for practitioners to offer patients who struggled with contact lens discomfort.

Contamac obtained FDA approval incorporating the Tangible Hydra-PEG™ technology into the Optimum family of GP materials and began transferring the technology to Optimum authorized custom contact lens laboratories.  Technology transfers began in late 2016 and will continue throughout 2017, and practitioners are encouraged to contact their preferred laboratory to find out when Tangible Hydra-PEG™ will be available. Interested labs should contact Contamac to learn more about offering the Tangible Hydra-PEG™ coating on their specialty lens designs.