Jonnie Williams and the introduction of the excimer laser VISX has revolutionized the field of laser eye surgery. Countless eyecare specialists have used the VISX line of excimer lasers to reshape the cornea to correct refractive vision errors, including myopia, astigmatism, and hyperopia. Since the release and FDA approval of the VISX laser system decades ago, the excimer laser has proven to be a highly reliable option available for laser eye surgery.
The Science Behind VISX
During the 1980s and 1990s, computer companies used different applications with excimer laser technology. Initially, companies developed the excimer laser as a tool to etch computer chips. Instead of heat, the ultraviolet laser relied on “cold” energy to avoid damaging surrounding tissue. VISX was founded in 1986 with initial use related to mild myopia by performing photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) on patients with low levels of myopia. Over the next ten years, VISX worked to gain FDA approval.
Jonnie Williams and VISX
Jonnie Williams was instrumental in securing the patent for the parts and equipment used in the VISX system. His investments helped the company gain the patents and the financing needed to get FDA approval. In 1993, VISX filed its first patent to earn FDA approval for the excimer laser to be utilized in PRK surgery. The next year, the FDA would award conditional approval for the VISX system. Advancements to the VISX technologies led to the development of the company’s STAR line of excimer lasers. VISX was one of the first lasers used by ophthalmologists to perform LASIK surgery. The laser reshaped the tissue of the cornea to address all levels of myopia and astigmatism. In 2001, VISX filed patents for the STAR 2 and STAR 3 for LASIK treatments.
The VISX system
Today, the VISX Star 4 has offered ophthalmologists a set of advanced tools to increase efficacy and safety during laser eye surgery. The VISX Star 4 harnesses 3D technologies to perform active eye-tracking during surgery. Instead of using 2D trackers, the 3D tracker provides more precision as it works along the x, y, and z-axis. The Star 4 also has variable-sized laser beams intended to decrease surgery timeframes while providing smoother, more precise results. The latest release starts with larger laser beams before switching to smaller beams with completion times averaging less than 20 minutes.
Jonnie Williams has a long and storied history as a venture capitalist and continues to invest in start-up biotech companies like VISX, which has offered advancements in pharmacology, ophthalmology, immunology, and more.