Calhoun Vision Inc.’s future just got a whole lot brighter.

The Pasadena maker of adjustable, surgically implantable lenses to treat cataracts got $69 million in financing to support its run for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

“This is a major inflection point for the company,” said Chief Executive Rick Heinick, who joined the firm in March. “The $69 million infusion will help take this company to its leadership position in the cataract space.”

Led by Menlo Park’s Longitude Capital, the round marks the first institutional funding for Calhoun, which was founded in 2000.

The firm raised upwards of $20 million in the past from angels in multiple rounds but never nailed down institutional dollars, Heinick said.

“I can’t speak for previous management teams, but they absolutely tried,” he said. “We have a brand-new management team with some very well-known people in the ophthalmology space. … We had the confidence of some very well-known VCs that could see where we were heading strategically and how we’re going to go after this very large market.”

During cataract surgery, doctors remove a patient’s cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial one. Because it is hard to estimate the exact strength of an implantable lens necessary to fix vision and because vision can change as the eye heals from the procedure, postoperative patients often end up needing glasses.

Calhoun’s lenses, using technology developed at Caltech, can be adjusted noninvasively in an ophthalmologist’s office after the eye has healed, Heinick explained. In other words, no glasses required.

The company’s lenses are already approved in Europe and Mexico, but the U.S. market is the big prize. The Review of Ophthalmology estimated 3.6 million cataract procedures will be done in the country this year and an additional 20 million worldwide.

In January, the firm brought in Andy Corley, who sold his Aliso Viejo firm Eyeonics Inc. to industry giant Bausch & Lomb, to serve as chairman. Heinick had also been at Bausch & Lomb as chief human resources and transformation officer before its $8.7 billion sale to Montreal’s Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. Calhoun last week hired Dr. Ron Kurtz as chief operations officer and Eric Weinberg as chief commercial officer.

The company has just finished a two-year process of enrolling 600 U.S. patients for its phase-three trial.

“That’s an important milestone for us,” Heinick said. “Now we have a chance to follow these patients over a one-year period and then continue with the FDA submission process.”

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