Menicon was founded on a ‘first’. In 1951 Kyoichi Tanaka broke new ground by developing Japan’s first corneal contact lens. Ever since, discovery has been central to all our endeavours.
It drives me personally too – I contributed to Asia’s contact lens casting factories from setting up the first fully moulded lens factory in Singapore in the 1990s. So, it was a logical move to work at Menicon where I’m now Chief Technology Officer and where I’ve had the honour of contributing to many more ‘firsts’.
Take our Miru 1day Menicon Flat Pack lenses – our pioneering Smart Touch™ packaging allows wearers to remove and fit contact lenses without touching the inner surface of the lens. Packaging that not only reduces the chances of contamination of the lens inner surface but also guarantees no confusion on orientation. Another example are our Menicon Bloom contact lenses that are designed to slow the progression of myopia in children and young adults.*
R&D from a different perspective
At Menicon, we‘re taking contact lens technology further, developing ways to improve the ease of use and handling for wearers and to prevent dropout.
Traditionally, our sector has developed products for the ophthalmologist and optometrist using the logic that the professional knows their patient best. But this process doesn’t always complement the wearer’s experience, leading to higher levels of noncompliance.
We reversed this thinking. We respond to the needs of contact lens wearers and at the same time, we use these insights to push our work beyond the conventional while ensuring safety is our paramount driver. And, we lead the way by predicting wearers’ future needs.
How do we do it? We have three main research and development functions: product development to conduct research on materials and designs; clinical research for clinical evaluation of eye safety and product efficacy; and research on technologies that enable efficient mass production of high-quality products.
But it’s critical that we inspire creativity among our researchers and give them the tools to accelerate development. We’re actively enhancing the working environment in our R&D Centres to nurture ideas and help our talented teams evolve at pace. And who better than Kyoichi Tanaka, our original founder, to stop by to galvanise the team, discuss exciting pipeline projects and provide a reminder of the ground-breaking possibilities that are within their reach.
The result is uniquely Menicon. We go further than anyone else because we are so passionate in our aim to create the best contact lenses in the world.
Dedicated to detail – the success story behind our Miru 1day Menicon Flat Pack
Our Miru lenses are engineered for absolute comfort. The material, poly (HEMA-GMA), is a polymer with numerous free hydroxyl radicals that naturally attract and bond with water molecules to ensure maximum wettability and moisture retention. And the CENTRAFORM back surface process provides the lens with a corneal matching low stress fit and a smooth edge to reduce friction when the wearer blinks.
But while our lenses were designed with utmost precision, there was still more we could do to improve the experience of the wearer. Our own door-to-door research identified three common issues contact lens wearers were experiencing:
1. Tough-to-open packaging
2. Difficulty finding the lens once they had opened the pack
3. Struggling to identify if the lenses were orientated correctly until they had them on their eye. If not, they had to remove and reapply them, leading to possible contamination and a risk of infection.
Our mission was to make easy-to-open packs with lenses that were easy to find and could be fitted correctly the first time. So, we did.
Taking inspiration from premium cosmetics brands, we spent eight years developing a packaging foil of the highest quality and which would preserve the lens hermetically for longer than five years. We reduced the force needed to open a foil pack to as little as four to five Newtons, as opposed to the traditional twenty Newtons used in conventional blister packs, all while retaining product stability and sterility.
We developed our own unique manufacturing process that could guarantee the orientation of the lenses in the final blister pack so the outer surface always faces upwards and we also reduced the amount of saline in the pack to make the lenses easier to find and handle. To make this happen, we spent a number of years building a dedicated manufacturing plant in Singapore, which is virtually entirely automated and can maintain the highest levels of quality and hygiene.
The result is our unique Smart Touch™ technology. The packaging not only improves the wearer experience, it promotes better eye health because wearers simply pinch and pop-in their lenses, which studies show reduces the chances of contamination of the inner lens surface.
And there are environmental benefits: the slimmer Flat Pack packaging is fully recyclable and uses significantly less material than the traditional blister packs (20% of traditional packs), and the secondary box packaging is 100% made from recycled materials from the lens-mould plastic in the manufacturing process.
Taking eye health further than ever before – Menicon Bloom™ for myopia*
We’re ideally placed to help address the global myopia epidemic. Statistics are concerning; in SE Asia, up to 90 percent of teenagers and young adults are near-sighted and cases have doubled in the US and Europe, with myopia reported in half the young population. The issue is important enough that the WHO has stepped in to support disease awareness.
As a sector, it’s clear we need to take a new approach that doesn’t simply correct the inconvenience of near-sightedness but develops a way to help treat the disease.
That’s why we created the Menicon Bloom™ platform that includes specially designed day and night lenses. These lenses, when used under the direction of trained eye care professionals, inhibit the growth of the length of the eye to slow the development of myopia in patients as young as seven-years-old. Our Menicon Bloom Night™ lenses temporarily change the shape of the cornea so once the lenses are removed, the patient doesn’t need to wear contact lenses during the day. Whereas our Menicon Bloom Day™ lenses (daily disposable) have been inspired by advanced camera optics, using extended depth of focus technology that provide sharp distance vision whilst slowing the progression of myopia.
But we’ve gone further than this. Our unique Cloud based Myopia Control Management system is designed to provide eye care professionals with high quality tools to treat the patient and aid communication. It’s completely different to anything else on the market. The system allows patients to manage their journey and supports continuity of treatment over the long term, preventing records getting lost over time.
Our vision: looking to the future
It’s our mission to use our technology and the human resources we’ve developed through contact lenses to continue to provide the world with products and services needed by society.
We’re exploring how we can use them to gather more wearer insights. Contact lenses have a logical place as a diagnostic device, potentially providing a way to monitor biomarkers in our tears, such as observed in certain inflammatory events to understand how the body is reacting to the lenses or to other influential factors.
But this is merely a glimpse into their potential. We’re already undertaking projects that will push contact lens technology into new areas and we have the operational ability to accelerate and shift gears when we need to.
We were founded on a break-through and we continue to aim at breaking the mould. Through our Menicon lenses, we’re working hard to bring the future of contact lens technology into the here and now.
*Menicon Bloom is not offered in the US.
Steve Newman, Senior Technical Director, Global R&D
Steve is Senior Technical Director, Global R&D of Menicon Co., Ltd. He has over 45 years of experience in the contact lens industry, particularly in the area of process development, manufacturing and lens design. He holds numerous patents in the fields of toric and aberration managed contact lens designs, manufacturing methods, materials and contact lens packaging. He is responsible for Menicon’s global research and development and product development. He is interested in smart wearable devices and augmented reality and how they may impact visual development and improve health related neurological functionality.
1. Dolgin, E. Nature, The myopia boom. Nature 2015.