Medical device maker Staar Surgical Co. hasn't seen such a good week in a long time.

The Monrovia company saw its share price spike twice last week, spurred by separate government approvals from the United States and the European Union for eye surgery devices that it plans to start selling within weeks.

Starr shares were trading at $1.05 on June 8 but shot up to $1.71 after the company announced the next morning that it had received European approval for a device that simplifies and makes cataracts surgery safer.

Then on June 11, the company announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Staar clearance to market a device that makes it easier to insert implantable contact lenses. That jolted the shares from $1.49 to $3.44.

Over the past year, Staar's stock has traded as low as 79 cents to as much as $5.98, but analysts said that last week's developments will boost the company.

"They haven't been in a better place in years," said Jon Hickman, an analyst with Santa Monica-based MDB Capital Group LLC, which predicts sales to grow 15 percent next year to $90.5 million.

The company's core product is the implantable contact lens, which is increasingly being viewed as a viable option to correct vision given rising concern over reported side effects from the most popular form of laser eye surgery called Lasik.

Hickman also credits much of Staar's recent success to Chief Executive Barry Caldwell, who since taking the helm in late 2007 has managed to cut operational costs and push the company toward higher sales worldwide $79 million in 2008 compared with $59 million in 2007.

Blurry past

Founded in 1982, Staar makes products used in the treatment of cataracts, and to correct vision problems such as nearsightedness; farsightedness; and astigmatism, a birth condition in which the cornea is not symmetrical.

Staar made its name in the early 1990s by developing the first foldable replacement lens for patients with cataracts, a condition in which the eye's natural lens becomes cloudy. The lens allowed doctors to use a far smaller eye incision than possible with traditional rigid lens replacements.

In 1996, the company began selling overseas the Visian ICL, the first implantable lens that is foldable and minimally invasive for the correction of adult nearsightedness. It requires an incision about half the size of an older, competing lens and unlike Lasik surgery in which a slice of the lens is cut away by a laser the procedure is reversible because the natural lens is left in. Reported side effects are fewer, too.


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