OSAKA -- Seeking to make headway into medical hardware, Santen Pharmaceutical will buy a U.S. startup developing an implant for the treatment of glaucoma.
The Japanese drugmaker said Tuesday that it will pay $225 million for privately held InnFocus. A formal agreement is expected in August.
Santen holds the leading share of the Japanese market for prescription eye drugs. Buying InnFocus will could give it a larger presence in medical devices, which now account for only a tiny fraction of its sales.
InnFocus' MicroShunt implant drains fluid from the eye to reduce intraocular pressure. The startup is in late-stage clinical testing in the U.S. and Europe and expects to apply for premarket approval for the device as soon as 2018. The implant could offer a less invasive alternative to conventional glaucoma surgery.
Santen paid some $600 million in 2014 for Merck's ophthalmology drug business in Europe and Asia.
That deal has helped the Japanese company expand in foreign markets, which accounted for 27% of total sales in the year to March 2016. It aims to boost that share to 40-50% by fiscal 2020.
Outside of Japan, Santen takes in just 70 million yen ($660,000) in sales of intraocular lenses and other medical devices. Even when domestic sales are added in, devices contribute only about 2.4 billion yen, or 1%, of annual sales.