50 years in optometry, 40 years of innovation – Professor Brien Holden reflects


Sydney, Australia, 11 March 2014: Since its humble beginnings in 1973, starting with the establishment of the Optometric Vision Research Foundation, Brien Holden Vision Institute has been at the forefront of vision technology, contributing to some of the most innovative advances that have shaped the optometric landscape. For those unaware, the Institute is the largest and most productive applied vision (correction) research centre in the world and its products have generated over $30 billion in sales for the industry. Over the last 40 years, from the development of the first toric soft lenses in the 70s to cutting-edge research that led to high oxygen permeable lenses, the Institute has a rich history of innovation and can be proud to say, “we did that”, always acknowledging its many valuable partners of course.

Revolutions in technology, science, and medicine transformed the way people lived in the 20th century and the 1970’s, in particular, was a key decade. From the first Intel Microprocessor, the development of the mobile phone to the creation of the first chicken pox and pneumonia vaccines, it’s difficult to imagine where we would be without these important technologies. For around half of all contact lens wearers worldwide, the same can be said for silicone hydrogel lenses.

The year 1973 marked the beginning of global collaborations and breakthrough vision correction technologies for the Institute – technologies that would change the future of eye care. In a busy decade, Brien Holden and colleagues were involved in the following product developments and research breakthroughs:

  • 1972 – Comfortable, well performing daily wear hydrogel spherical and toric lens (Zero 6 Hydron).
  • 1973 – Endothelial response to contact lens wear.
  • 1975 – Extended wear soft lenses, co-designed Permalens and Permaflex extended wear soft contact lenses.

In the 80s…

  • 1983 –The first centre distance and centre near soft bifocal combination for treating presbyopia with concentric bifocal contact lenses (CooperVision).
  • 1985 to 1994 – Saw methods develop for the definition of the oxygen needs of the eye, methods of using and screening extended wear lenses which led to high Dk Silicone Hydrogel lenses, (CIBA VISION, Bausch & Lomb).
  • 1998 – The silicone hydrogel invention, released initially by CIBA VISION as the Focus® Night and DayTM contact lens, now accounts for more than 50% of soft contact lens sales globally.
  • 2002 –Soft toric contact lenses design for the correction of astigmatism were successfully launched as the Biomedics Toric and later as the Biofinity and Aviara toric lenses.
  • 2009 –Collaboration with CIBA VISION resulted in the AIR OPTIXTM AQUA MULTIFOCAL contact lenses for correction of presbyopia which is now the largest selling multifocal in the US today.
  • 2010 – MyoVisionTM spectacle lens was released by Institute partner, Carl Zeiss Vision. The spectacle lens was found to slow the progression of myopia by 30% in children with at least one myopic parent.

Speaking at a meeting at BHV-OPTINOVA Research and Training Centre, a joint venture with Nova Vision Optical in China, Professor Brien Holden, CEO, Brien Holden Vision Institute said: “Yes, we did it” (quoting his granddaughter’s adoption of Dora the Explorer’s mantra). “I was asked recently to review our past projects and products and I was amazed at how many of the innovations in industry were the result of our interactions over the years with our partners and colleagues and in our collaborations with industry. Our products have generated billions of dollars in sales and are being used worldwide for vision correction, yet we have been reluctant to blow our own trumpet. We will continue to progress our work towards the optimal correction of vision, and the early detection and diagnosis of eye disease and general health conditions affecting the eye, through advanced, innovative and affordable product development,” he said.

So what can you expect from the Institute over the next few years?

“Next up will be our Retinal Imaging Camera,” said Professor Holden. “This innovation will be a cost-effective camera which we hope will eventually provide early, automatic diagnosis of blinding eye disease which in turn will lead to more appropriately targeted referrals – significantly lowering costs for the health system.

“When we saw the amazing work of Tom Cornsweet and colleagues, who have been developing this technology in Prescott, U.S, at Brien Holden Vision Diagnostics, previously Quantum Catch, we realised the potential for the camera to go global. Throughout the world, especially in developing communities, there are many barriers to accessing eye care. The Retinal Imaging Camera will provide health care workers with the ability to provide same-visit detection, allowing for a less complex patient eye care journey.”

Brien Holden Vision Diagnostics is also developing a device, called NODe, that will help us assess neurological function and dysfunction by assessing, measuring and monitoring ocular behaviour.

Professor Holden added, ”There are currently no commercial devices that combine visual stimuli with pupil and eye tracking. NODe will allow for an accurate and speedy diagnosis at the site where the concussion took place – a first of its kind.

“Our passion for science and innovation will continue with future advances. And though we are proud to have our names associated with ground-breaking optometric devices, there is a lot more to come,” said Professor Holden.

“We are not finished with contact lenses either, which have been stagnating in market growth in the developed world. It took us 15 years to develop the recipe for hypoxia free lenses. Our work in torics, multifocals and myopia control lenses will have an immense effect in providing better vision for all and a safer future for young people, and then we have to finish off the ‘spectacle killer’ lens, a lens that is better than no lens, which we speculated about many years ago.”

“The difference is that these days the big companies aren’t really interested in risk investment in innovation, so we have to go it alone. But by doing that we hope to be able to generate the sort of revenues that will make a massive difference to the hundreds of millions in need of vision correction around the world. Challenging, but exciting times.”


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Editor’s Notes

Brien Holden Vision Institute believes in vision for everyone…everywhere. The Institute is a global multidisciplinary research, development, commercialisation, education and public health organisation, focused on developing breakthrough vision correction and eye care solutions that will improve the quality of vision people experience, prevent blindness and deliver equity in eye care access worldwide. Share the vision: