With the help of a nomination by Duquesne’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), an international businessman and humanitarian who owns a local company was honored July 16 as the U.S. Small Business Administration Pittsburgh District Exporter of the Year.
Physician Dr. Jash Sharma, president of CIMA Life Sciences Inc., worked with the SBDC to start a company that makes intraocular lenses used in cataract surgery. He obtained a Small Business Administration’s guaranteed loan to build a facility in Monroeville in 2011.
Guided by the SBDC, Sharma met U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines—and achieved International Standard Organization approval. Duquesne’s Center for International Regulatory Assistance also helped the company to obtain the CE mark for global health and product safety. This opened the company’s market to the European Union, allowing Sharma to export his product to more than 30 countries—and to donate lenses to eye camps in rural China, India, Mexico and Africa.
Sharma is the sixth business owner since 2000 that has consulted with the SBDC Global Business Program to be honored as Pittsburgh Exporter of the Year. The SBDC nominated Sharma for this award both because his company has grown to 22 employees and because of his social entrepreneurship and philanthropy.
Sharma is working with homeless teens at nearby Gateway High School, explaining, “They need work, and I want to provide training so they one day possibly can pursue careers in machining.”
CIMA Life Sciences Inc. produces 500 high-precision, foldable hydrophobic lenses daily.
In his native India, where he first started making lenses, Sharma has worked to combat blindness in concert with his father. Blinded by glaucoma and eye infections, Sharma’s father spent his life savings to establish an eye hospital that provides free cataract operations for the needy. Last year alone, 4,200 patients left the hospital with free lenses from Sharma, glasses and a life no longer restricted by blindness.
“I want to give back,” Sharma said, “so everyone can live the life I lead.”