13 Companies and Organizations Spawned by Alcon Alumni

Here are notable organizations that veterans of the eye care giant have started or hold executive positions in.

At one time, even a corporate giant like Alcon was a startup.

Alcon began in 1945 as a pharmacy opened by William Conner and Robert Alexander in Fort Worth. Now, it’s the world’s largest maker of eye care devices worth billions of dollars. 

Over the years, Alcon has been bought, sold, and spun off. Along the way, the company’s alumni have ventured into enterprises of their own—some dealing with eye care and some that don’t. Here are a few of them.


Companies

Eosera Inc.

Description: Biotechnology maker of drops and other products to reduce earwax
Headquarters: Fort Worth
Founders/top execs: Co-founded by CEO Elyse Stoltz Dickerson and Chief Scientific Officer Joe Griffin. Another four-plus Alcon vets have either been employed there or worked as contractors.
Founded: March 2015
Alcon connection: Dickerson was Alcon’s global director for the anti-infective, otic, dry ear, and ocular nutrition franchises. Griffin was their senior product manager, global otic, anti-infective, and ocular nutrition.

AyuVis Research Inc.

Description: Developing drugs to battle respiratory-related inflammation and infection
Headquarters: Fort Worth
Founder/top exec: Suchi Acharya, president and CEO
Founded: February 2014
Alcon connection: Acharya was a scientist at Novartis, Alcon’s then-parent, managing two medicinal chemistry projects. It also has three Alcon alums working part time and as consultants.

Nacuity Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Description: Developing a drug to combat retinis pigmentosa, a group of diseases that can lead to blindness
Founder/top exec: Halden Conner, chairman, CEO, and co-founder
Founded: May 2016
Alcon connection: Conner is a son of Alcon founder William Conner and a former board member of that company. Among the five to six other Alcon alums associated with the business is G. Michael Wall, vice president of research and development. Wall directed all phases of drug development at Alcon.

Sentinel Diagnostic Imaging Inc.

Description: Software to better diagnose diseases through a 15-second analysis of medical images of a person’s retina
Headquarters: Colleyville
Founder/top exec: David Meadows, founder
Founded: February 2014
Alcon connection: Meadows was a vice president of research and development at Alcon. As with the seven other companies he’s started, Meadows works with ex-Alcon employees who help with everything from seeking patents to business development, along with investing in the business.

Purewine Inc.

Description: Creating filters to reduce side effects from drinking wine, such as headaches and skin rashes
Headquarters: Grapevine
Founder/top exec: David Meadows, CEO, who co-founded the business with his son, Derek
Founded: February 2014
Alcon connection: Purewine is one of eight companies launched by Meadows, a former Alcon vice president of research and development. As with his other companies, Meadows uses Alcon-employees-turned-consultants to help with various areas of Purewine.

Eyevance Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Description: Provides medications to eye doctors
Headquarters: Fort Worth
Founders/top execs: Jerry St. Peter, co-founder, CEO, and director, and Jason Werner, co-founder and chief operating officer
Founded: 2017
Alcon connection: Has purchased at least three drugs from Novartis, Alcon’s former parent. Eyevance’s director of commercial operations, Josh Pezzuto, was a manager of U.S. commercial operations at Alcon.

Sight Sciences Inc.

Description: Surgical devices for treating glaucoma and a wearable eyelid device for applying heat when patients need a warm compress.
Headquarters: Menlo Park, California, with a commercial office in Southlake
Founders/top execs: Paul Badawi, co-founder and CEO, David Badawi, co-founder and chief technology officer
Founded: 2011
Alcon connection: At least six of its executives are Alcon alums, led by chief commercial officer Shawn O’Neil.

OncoNano Medicine Inc.

Description: Creating vaccine and imaging-related technology for fighting cancer
Headquarters: Southlake
Founder/top exec: Ravi Srinivasan
Founded: January 2014
Alcon connection: Including chief financial officer Matthew Head, seven of the company’s 20 employees worked at Alcon. Of those seven, six worked at ZS Pharma, a one-time Coppell biopharmaceutical company that AstraZeneca acquired for $2.7 billion in 2015.

Bios Equity Partners

Description: Venture capital firm focusing on life sciences
Headquarters: Fort Worth
Founder/top execs: Aaron G.L. Fletcher, managing partner and co-founder; Les Kreis, managing partner and co-founder; and Stella Robertson, co-founder
Founded: June 2015
Alcon connection: Co-founder Stella Robertson was previously a vice president in research and development at Alcon Laboratories.

Eyevensys

Description: Privately-held clinical-stage company developing non-viral gene therapies for retinal and other ophthalmic diseases
Headquarters: Paris, France, with U.S. base in Fort Worth
Founder/top exec: Patricia Zilliox, CEO
Founded: 2008
Alcon connection: Zilliox was the senior director of clinical pharma at Alcon from 1981 to 2011.


Exits

Encore Vision

Description: Eye drops for treating a hardening of the eye lens
Headquarters: Fort Worth
Founder/top exec: William “Bill” Burns, president and CEO
Founded: September 2006
Alcon connection: A former vice president of global marketing in Alcon’s consumer and pharmaceutical products, Burns sold Encore to Novartis (Alcon’s parent) for $465 million in January 2017.

ZS Pharma

Description: Treatments for conditions such as hyperkalemia, in which kidneys are unable to excrete potassium, something that can lead to issues with heart rhythm
Headquarters: San Mateo, California, with a local office in Coppell
Founder/top exec: Al Guillem, founder and CEO
Founded: 2008
Alcon connection: At least six Alcon alums worked at ZS Pharma, which sold to AstraZeneca for $2.7 billion in 2015. Those six folks now work at Southlake’s OncoNano Medicine.


Research Organizations

North Texas Eye Research Institute, UNT Health Science Center

Description: Basic and clinical research on the eye
Headquarters: Fort Worth
Founder/top exec: Abbot Clark, Regents professor and executive director
Founded: 1992
Alcon connection: Clark was Alcon’s vice president of discovery research and head of glaucoma research. Alcon scientists have served as adjunct faculty at area schools such as UNTHSC.

A version of this article was originally published in Dallas Innovates 2020: The Magazine.


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