Most companies have a primary goal of maximizing profits. Though highly successful from a business standpoint, New World Medical believes its mission is to combat glaucoma worldwide by donating its products and empowering doctors around the globe, especially in developing countries, with the skills to use them.
This has been the company’s mission since Mateen Ahmed, PhD, a biomedical engineer and professor, started New World Medical in 1990. His invention, based on his experience in valve design and implantation, was the Ahmed Glaucoma Valve for refractory glaucoma. It became the company’s first product when it was cleared by the FDA in the early 1990s. The Ahmed Glaucoma Valve proved to be a groundbreaking advance for the most difficult-to-treat and vulnerable glaucoma patients.
Dr. Ahmed’s precedent of regularly donating from the company’s profits for humanitarian efforts has continued to this day with a formal commitment to contribute more than 10% of profits annually to broader humanitarian initiatives that have been introduced.
“Dr. Ahmed’s ownership of New World Medical frees our team to be truly mission driven as we do not answer to stakeholders that have different priorities,” says Bilal Khan, Dr. Ahmed’s son-in-law and a former actuary who has been CEO of the company for the past 9 years. “When I assumed my current role, Dr. Ahmed spoke to me about his commitment to optimizing our organization’s contribution to society. We are not fixated on a liquidity event though there has been a lot of interest in the company over the years. Dr. Ahmed always reiterates that as long as our focus is on the patient we will be fine.”
A Thriving Company
It’s easy to see why other companies might want to acquire New World Medical, which is based in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Sales have multiplied over the past decade and the company has a goal of reaching 500,000 patients a year by 2025. The Ahmed Glaucoma Valve is now part of a growing portfolio of products, which include the versatile Kahook Dual Blade for excising trabecular meshwork tissue, and the recently launched Ahmed Clearpath, a valveless glaucoma drainage device that features anterior suture holes and a flexible plate with a contour that closely conforms to the curvature of the eye. The company plans to introduce multiple additional products over the coming years.
Skills Transfer to International Doctors
It is the company’s commitment to providing tools to fight glaucoma on an international scale that really sets it apart. Using profits from its thriving global operations, New World Medical works with US glaucoma specialists who go on international missions, and the company provides them with free products to train local surgeons.
“We must focus on skills transfer to empower local surgeons to use our products effectively,” says Mr. Khan. “To do this, we need to partner with talented surgeons willing to educate colleagues abroad. For example, when Oluwatosin Smith, MD, of Glaucoma Associates of Texas (GAT) was traveling to Nigeria to train surgeons, she reached out to us about supplying no-charge Ahmed Glaucoma Valves and supporting a wet lab, but said that it was only worthwhile training surgeons if they had access to valves afterwards.”
A partnership with GAT’s Cure Glaucoma Foundation grew out of this, in which Dr. Smith, Omolola Idowu, MD, from the University of Maryland, Manjool Shah, MD, from the University of Michigan, and New World Medical’s education and training director, Ray Nix, created a “train the trainer” pilot program focused on glaucoma drainage devices in Nigeria. “They have developed a distance-learning curriculum for experienced surgeons and have committed to personally overseeing the first 5 cases of each surgeon who successfully completes the course,” adds Mr. Khan. “In turn, New World Medical has committed to supplying these surgeons with Ahmed Glaucoma Valves at an accessible price. Many of these doctors are already proficient in cataract surgery and we can build on that.”
Mr. Khan says that, even though Nigeria may never have the financial resources to be a profit center for New World Medical, the company is committed to combating glaucoma in that country.
Growing Success in China
One country that started out as a humanitarian initiative and that has now turned profitable is China.
“Dr. Ahmed spent a lot of time training Chinese doctors to use our products and now China is our biggest market outside the United States,” says Mr. Khan. “They have established a payer system, which helps a great deal. We still provide accessible pricing to ensure Chinese patients can benefit, but China is an example of how you can establish a new market and have it become a profit center. In addition, China has a high prevalence of angle-closure glaucoma, for which excisional goniotomy with the Kahook Dual Blade, which was recently approved there, can be a very effective option. So China is a particularly good market for us.”
New Initiatives Enhance the Commitment
To ensure that the company’s humanitarian initiatives can be pursued without any influence from business considerations, New World Medical recently created the Sidra Tree Foundation to manage its financial donations.
“One of our goals with Sidra Tree is to make results-oriented investments,” says Mr. Khan. “If we are going to award money, we want to hold the recipients accountable.”
The foundation will manage New World Medical’s annual humanitarian awards for individuals or organizations working to eradicate preventable blindness. The Humanitarian Project Award ($50,000) supports a nonprofit or academic institution that provides ophthalmic care and skills transfer. The Health Outcomes Research Award ($10,000) promotes a nonprofit or academic institution’s study of health care models that address blinding diseases in underserved regions. Two fellowship awards ($5,000) provide medical mission travel support for glaucoma fellows dedicated to humanitarian work. Sidra Tree has also launched “Kahook’s Essentials of Glaucoma Therapy,” an open-source wiki platform that can be accessed at www.keogt.com .
Good Works Reap Rewards
New World Medical’s mission resonates with many surgeons. Mr. Khan says that it aligns with the motivation that drove them to the profession.
“We are blessed with authentic advocacy for our organization,” notes Mr. Khan. “We believe that these relationships are solidified by our collaborative approach and our employee participation in medical missions, which we support by covering 75% of the associated time and cost.”
In addition, by establishing its products with local doctors who have been trained to use them, New World Medical gains a marketing advantage by having the glaucoma devices of choice while these countries develop economically, as the China experience attests.
In addition to increasing its patient base, introducing new products, and increasing sales revenue, New World Medical has a goal of increasing worldwide product donations tenfold by 2025, and this includes continuing to donate product to help the uninsured in the United States.
“There are a lot of patients that still need to be reached,” concludes Mr. Khan. GP