“He knew we would win,” Roy Martin ’79 said of business partner Chris Pulling when Pulling entered their fledgling company, MicroOptx, into the MN Cup, the nation’s largest statewide entrepreneurial contest.
It turned out Pulling was right. Not only did MicroOptx win the life science/health IT division, it also took grand prize and $80,000 in capital. MicroOptx is a medical device company working to halt the progression of glaucoma, the world’s leading cause of blindness.
Martin said that his St. Thomas education was formative in the path that his career has taken.
“[St. Thomas] opens your mind to all the possibilities and lets you know you can achieve anything,” Martin said.
MicroOptx grew out of another of Martin’s and Pulling’s business endeavors, Integra, which is also a medical device company. During the course of their work they met Dr. J. David Brown, the former chief of ophthalmology at the Minnesota Veterans Administration and an experienced glaucoma surgeon, who created the Brown Glaucoma Implant. The implant stops vision loss by reducing pressure on the optic nerve and redirecting fluid to the eye’s surface.
When Martin and Pulling sold Integra in 2012, Martin said he could have retired, but that he and Pulling wanted to start another project.
“We’re do-ers, not reviewers,” Martin said of himself and Pulling. “It’s exciting to create a business, create jobs and bring technologies that help people.” He added that when they saw the way the Brown Glaucoma Implant device worked and the potential it had to help so many people, it was “a project we couldn’t say no to.”
With the added help of finance partner Keith Bares, MicroOptx launched in 2015 to bring the implant from conception to market. It is about to begin testing in humans.
In addition to being a Tommie alumnus, Martin serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Engineering, teaching clinical research, pre-clinical research, and cardiovascular anatomy and physiology.
“It’s very rewarding to come back and share what I’ve learned through the years,” Martin said. “I just find it really enjoyable to be with the students and meet these young professionals starting out their careers. It’s very invigorating.”