For the September installment of the Healthtech Leader of the Month series, we spoke to Rui Jing Jiang, Founder, CEO, and Director of Avisi Technologies. Rui Jing is a Rosenman Founder and joined the Rosenman Innovators program in 2020.
Avisi, a trailblazing medical device company, is developing VisiPlate, a nanotechnology-enabled aqueous shunt designed to treat glaucoma. Working closely with ophthalmologists and experts, Avisi is committed to introducing a reliable, safe and effective solution for glaucoma patients.
Avisi’s Vision for the Future of Glaucoma
Some individuals only discover their desire to be an entrepreneur later on in their careers. However, by the time she was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Rui Jing had already co-founded Avisi Technologies. Her aspirations to lead a company arose during an internship at Allergan, where she helped the company screen various startups for acquisition. “This experience piqued my interest in both the intersection of business and medicine and technology,” Rui Jing comments. Then, after a couple of rotations at JP Morgan and Sanofi Genzyme, Rui Jing started Avisi in 2017. Rui Jing and Co-Founder Brandon Kao received the President’s Innovation Prize at Penn, a program that enables Penn students to undertake innovative, commercial ventures through $100,000 of non-dilutive funding. Today, Avisi has raised over $10 million in venture capital financing and non-dilutive grants.
Glaucoma, the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness, affects 140 million people globally. The condition is characterized by a buildup of pressure in the eye that can lead to optic nerve damage and, eventually, loss of vision. High patient noncompliance to topical medications lead to rapid disease progression and the need for surgical intervention. Current laser and surgery treatments, which revolve around the creation of secondary drainage pathways for the pent-up fluid in the eye, have significant downsides. Existing interventions often fail—due to occlusion with scar tissue, complications from invasive procedures, or other reasons. It’s a troubling reality that Rui Jing, no stranger to eye problems, wants to change.
Enter Avisi Technologies. The startup’s flagship product, VisiPlate, is a next-generation aqueous shunt designed to revolutionize glaucoma treatment. Many times thinner than human hair, VisiPlate uses nanotechnology to meld strength with flexibility, creating a device as durable as it is discreet. What sets VisiPlate apart from its contemporaries is its unique multi-channel design. This means that, unlike other devices that can become easily clogged, VisiPlate’s multiple outflow pathways allow it to remain functional, helping to maintain the requisite pressure in the eye consistently. Moreover, VisiPlate is designed to address a significant drawback of existing devices: occlusion due to scar tissue. Composed of non-fibrotic materials, it resists scarring and blockage. This is crucial for the longevity and effectiveness of the treatment, preventing the device from becoming another temporary fix that ultimately fails the patient. For Rui Jing and her team at Avisi, patient care is paramount. “Ultimately, we want to design a product that does not only satisfy the therapeutic goal but also makes the patient feel good about their path towards preserved vision,” Rui Jing expresses.
Leader to Leader: 3 Lessons Learned
- Lead with Empathy
Rui Jing finds importance in leading with empathy. “Have empathy for the people experiencing the health problem, for the physicians involved in solving that problem, and also for the people you are working with,” Rui Jing explains, “It is important to remember that we are all human.”
- Build Resilience
“Whether it be during fundraising, addressing a technical challenge, or preparing for an evolving market landscape, you need resilience to solve problems as an entrepreneur,” Rui Jing says. Drawing on this resilience has been important for Rui Jing in steering Avisi through each hurdle it faces as a startup.
- Be Open to Asking for Help
“Nobody can do it all alone,” Rui Jing affirms. Rui Jing understands that she won’t always have an answer, but recognizes there may be someone in the ecosystem who does, or a resource that can help her get closer. “Not enough people are willing to ask for help. But it’s something that I have found to be very important,” Rui Jing concludes.
Looking Ahead: A Growing Team & Clinical Trials
The next step for Avisi Technologies is to accelerate its growth, particularly by expanding its team in the Bay Area, where the company recently opened an office to strengthen ties with investors and strategic partners. The team is eagerly continuing their clinical trials, keen to explore the potential of the VisiPlate device and refine it further. With a clear timeline in sight, they are setting their sights on approaching the FDA within the next few years, a significant step towards making their innovative glaucoma treatment available in clinics across the United States and world.
Today, under Rui Jing Jiang’s focused leadership, Avisi Technologies is positioned at the cusp of a new era in glaucoma care. Bolstered by promising early results from the first cohort of patients treated with VisiPlate, the company is beginning to fulfill its mission: transforming the treatment landscape for millions of glaucoma patients in need.
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