A County Durham firm behind revolutionary blindness treatment is plotting further global expansion as strong transatlantic demand bolsters its market standing, The Northern Echo can reveal.
PolyPhotonix says patients are flying in from the US to use its Noctura 400 mask.
The eye cover, developed thanks to £14m of taxpayers’ funding, delivers light therapy to sleeping patients.
Bosses say it can transform eye disease treatment in diabetes sufferers, with some experts saying it could potentially save the NHS £1bn a year.
Richard Kirk, PolyPhotonix founder and chief executive, revealed dozens of patients have already contacted the company, with many spending thousands to jet over from the US to access the mask after hearing of its qualities on social media.
He also said the business, based at NETPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham, is working with medical institutions in France, Belgium and Switzerland, with a hospital in Croatia expected to begin using the Noctura 400.
He told The Northern Echo: “In the UK, we accept treatment from the point of delivery and go along with what our consultant tells us.
“But in the US, because they are used to paying for healthcare, (it is different) and we started to get patients Googling and contacting us saying ‘I’m getting the eye treatment but it’s not working’.”
Patrick McCrosson, a US-based type-one diabetes sufferer, said he has already felt the benefits.
He said: “At one point, I was terrified of the possibility of blindness, laser treatments and my health in general.
“Today I feel like a new person with increased energy and optimism; the Noctura 400 is largely responsible for this.”
Earlier this year, PolyPhotonix, which employs about 25 staff, was backed by £300,000 funding from Durham County Council to help make its ambitions a reality.
Mr Kirk said such support would be intrinsic as the company shifts from research and development to revenue making, revealing its US visitors are fitted for their masks at a partner firm’s Swindon base.
He said: “We’ve now got 650,000 hours of patient use and each patient goes on to a database so we can monitor how and where they are using it.
“It is non-invasive, it is safe and the data is showing that.
“There was scepticism but there is now real momentum and people are starting to believe.”
Mr Kirk also confirmed PolyPhotonix is now in a larger home on NetPark after previously using CPI facilities, adding the company’s expansion would be driven from the North-East.
He said: “It is pretty clear we are going to stay here and expand in this site and the council have been extremely supportive in helping us with our next phase.”
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes, which occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the cells at the back of the eye.
If it isn’t treated, it can cause blindness.
To raise awareness of its treatment, PolyPhotonix is holding an open evening in Darlington next week, where diabetes patients can find out more about Noctura 400.
The free event takes place on Thursday, October 20, between 6.30pm and 8pm, at the CPI’s National Biologics Manufacturing Centre.
For more information, contact 01740-669143.
By Steven Hugill, The Northern Echo