SOUTH AFRICA – The SAB Foundation, an independent trust affiliated to South African Breweries (SAB), has announced its investment of R30 million (US$1.75 million) in startup Liqid Medical, a medical device development company pioneering a new class of sight-saving ocular implants.
“We are proud to be one of the first foundations in the country to use its endowment for impact investment,” said Bridgit Evans, executive director of the SAB Foundation.
“The aim of this is to leverage traditional capital pools toward solutions that address key socio-economic challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty.”
According to Evans the SAB Foundation was set up as part of SAB’s black economic empowerment scheme and receives dividends bi-annually.
“We will be using funds from those investments to fund the transaction, which represents a significant shareholding in this business,” he said.
Evans added that, “As a foundation, our ultimate objective is to support social innovators to develop their businesses, which will in turn boost the local economy and create jobs.”
“This investment is a significant opportunity to mobilise capital into investments that target measurable positive social and economic impact alongside financial returns.”
Liqid Medical was founded by Dr Daemon McClunan, an award-winning ophthalmologist specialising in glaucoma treatment. He is the youngest member ever admitted to the executive committee member of the South African Glaucoma Society.
Based in Cape Town, which is emerging as a major technology hub, LIQID Medical was previously awarded R1.3 million (US$76,695) in funding and mentorship as the winner of the foundation’s Disability Empowerment Awards in 2019. They used the grant to conduct their first human trials with very encouraging results.
The patented devices have been designed to harness a naturally occurring anatomical mechanism to provide the potential for the most clinically effective, cost-saving, and quality-of-life-improving solutions for glaucoma, a leading cause of global blindness.
Currently, there are three core devices under development, which are the OptiShunt, iPortVR, and iFlow.
McClunan has been working on the development of these devices since 2015. Following its most recent investment of R9.5 million (about US$556 000) from the Technology and Innovation Agency of South Africa, the R30 million (US$1.77m) equity funding investment from the SAB Foundation is earmarked for technology development, regulatory accreditation, clinical trials, and IP portfolio development over a period of three years.
“Our goal is to be commercialisation ready by the end of the funding tranche,” explains McClunan.
“Commercialisation, followed by launch to market, is expected three years after the investment. This is driven by the company concluding further clinical trials and securing international regulatory approvals within the target period.”