Supporting unmet demand
While eye banks in the United States collectively are meeting the need for corneal tissue domestically, outside of this country the unmet demand is significant. More than 10 million patients are awaiting transplants, and in the developing world, many of them are children and young adults.
Proceeds from the 2015 sale of the musculoskeletal division are now being invested in strengthening KeraLink’s efforts to improve this situation, while at the same time expanding the reach and breadth of its work in the United States.
“We’re all about supporting research that may have an impact in the future, but we’re also about trying to do what we can right now to try to be impactful where we can,” Furlong said.
The results are already evident.
In 2016, KeraLink spent more than $3.5 million to enhance its operations in the United States and abroad, including outfitting a new facility in Baltimore that serves as the organization’s global headquarters and mid-Atlantic center. The headquarters allows for 24/7 evaluation and preparation of tissue, includes two class 100 clean rooms, and equipment to provide processing redundancy, as well as fully equipped space for research and surgical training.
This center and others that are to be built or expanded in KeraLink’s six other U.S. sites are essential to its ongoing commitment to serving local academic institutions and private ophthalmologists, Furlong said.
KeraLink has also been investing heavily in surgeon services and has hired and trained additional staff to track tissue within its system and throughout its network of additional cooperating independent eye banks.
“I’m proud to report that more than 97% of the time we’re telling our surgeons that we have their tissue available at least 3 days before their surgery,” Furlong said. Most days we’re at 100%.
“That is of critical importance to our surgeons, and it’s a direct result of the investments we’ve been making in the past year,” he said. “They know they can rely on KeraLink to provide them exactly the tissue they need, when they need it, processed to their specifications.”