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A new contact lens developed by an innovative Christchurch company is bringing the world back into focus for sufferers of a common vision problem. Its million dollar R&D investment into three state of the art lathes is also giving the 35 year old company access to new markets internationally as well as a sharper view of its future growth path.

Until now, correcting the common problem of astigmatism has meant wearing glasses or imported contact lenses but thanks to a successful transfer of technology from the US, the Corneal Lens Corporation is now able to manufacture specialty soft lenses in New Zealand.

It is the only local manufacturer of specialist soft toric lenses (able to correct significant visual problems). Graeme Curtis, General Manager of Corneal Lens Corp. says success in the lens business is highly dependent on the ability to keep at the forefront of technology.

“It’s critical to keep up with R&D and ensure we have the best technology possible to continue to develop new products,” he says. “We’d already developed a specialist rigid gas permeable lens for conditions such as keratoconus and post-graft corneas but we knew that a soft toric lens would be very attractive to a wide section of the New Zealand market who have quite specific correction needs.”

Technology New Zealand, part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology,, assisted the company in its technology quest. Funding from the agency enabled the company to test out the US-sourced software needed for its computer numerically controlled lathes.

“Three lathes – at a cost of around $350,000 a lathe- is a significant investment and we needed to be certain that the software would work to absolute precision on our equipment,” says Mr Curtis. It’s meant the new lenses answer the demands of contact lens wearers everywhere, for ‘something thinner, stable and comfortable” that will correct significant visual impairment.

The new lens is setting sales records since its launch onto the New Zealand market three months ago, and made its debut in Australia two weeks ago.

Graeme Curtis says assistance from Technology New Zealand enabled the company to be confident that the new technology would be a practical addition to its development programme. “It has brought back technology to this country that in years gone by would have been imported. For us, it lessens the reliance on other companies and it means we now have the technology and expertise to continue our R&D. It also gives our company, and staff, more security for the future.”

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