The 2014 Catalyst Award: William J. Link, PhD

The Glaucoma Research Foundation 2014 Catalyst Award was presented to William J. Link, PhD, a leading venture capitalist instrumental in the advancement of many important new technologies including innovative treatments for glaucoma.

The Catalyst Award, Glaucoma Research Foundation's highest honor, recognizes exemplary leadership in sustaining innovative glaucoma research and education. The award was presented to Dr. Link on February 6, 2014 at the Glaucoma 360 Annual Gala in San Francisco.

Video transcript:

Gene de Juan, Jr. MD (Founder and Vice Chairman, ForSight Labs): Somebody would think that you were exaggerating when you say Bill has been very much a part of most of the important innovations that have happened over the past, really fifteen, twenty years in ophthalmology, but he really has done tremendous, been involved or initiated efforts that have really changed ophthalmology. All of the very sophisticated laser treatments for refraction, the Second Sight bionic eye, all of that, he really has had a huge impact.

Emmett Cunningham, Jr., MD, PhD, MPH (Partner, Clarus Ventures): And he's done so much of it over such a long period of time. So, 30+ years directly involved in companies that have innovated at the highest levels - AMO, Chiron Vision, then a series of private companies that he started and helped start, helped build, and take to the point where they had successful medical devices within ophthalmology.

Gene: An innovator is somebody who changes the world. And he doesn't have to be an inventor. Maybe Steve Jobs with the iPhone is an innovation because it changed the world, it changed the way we act, and I call those innovations. And I think what Bill does is he takes inventions and turns them into innovations that change the way people act. I don't think the Catalyst Award could go to somebody who has been more impactful.

Emmett: In what way does Bill exemplify the word "catalyst?" I think that he and what he does, which is venture investing, really at its core is what promotes and fuels innovation, promotes company growth, company building. So both the money he provides and the expertise he provides allows these companies, permits them to grow, to flourish, so in that sense I think he's a real catalyst for innovation.

Title: Catalyst for Innovation

William J. Link, PhD (Managing Director, Versant Ventures): I transitioned into venture capital in the late 90's after we sold a business that I had helped build named Chiron Vision to Bausch + Lomb. I had been a CEO and entrepreneur for over 20 years and I was ready to do something different. And a colleague of mine, a dear friend, invited me to look at the venture capital field. I didn't know what it was, and I was intrigued and thought I would give it a try. And since when I started in venture capital I knew a lot about ophthalmology, I probably was able to see opportunity there because of my expertise.

Title: Innovator in Ophthalmology

Bill Link: Well I got started in ophthalmology by accident. My wife Marsha and I left Indiana University where we were both on the faculty and we moved to Southern California and I got into the business side of the world. First day on the job I was just sitting in a conference room, trying to be quiet at the far end of the table, and the boss at the end of the table said "does anyone here know about these new lenses that are implanted inside the eye, they're called 'intraocular lenses?'" It was dead quiet and after a couple moments I couldn't stand it and I said, "well, Mr. Perry, I don't know about those lenses but I know an ophthalmologist" and that started my career in ophthalmology.

Title: What Makes Bill Tick?

Bill Link: Well, how important is family is an easy thought for me. Family is everything. There are a lot of ways to do well and feel good about yourself but my way is to know that the family is solid and that I've done my part. I was raised in a caring family, it made a difference in my life, I believe that I'm involved now with a family that I know I care about and we care about each other. And so if we're healthy and interactive and go through our ups and downs as a family, that's a strong base, and can be a platform for us trying this professionally, trying that professionally, and we can always go back to the family who accepts us as we are.

Well of course there's a lot more to come, I couldn't be more fired up then I am today. The privilege I have is: my ability to have impact has never been better. And so shame on me if we don't stay focused, and look forward, and try to continue to take on tough problems, team up with good people and good clinicians, and I bet we're going to continue to make a difference.

Title: Entrepreneur, Innovator, Catalyst. William J. Link, PhD, the 2014 Catalyst Award

End transcript

Last reviewed on March 28, 2014

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