Progressive spectacle lens maker Shamir Optical Industry Ltd. of Israel today announced that its European subsidiary, Altra, has formed Altra-France, a new company which will establish operations in an existing building near Paris to manufacture and support sales and distribution throughout France. The company is investing $5.8 million in the new business over the next two years and has signed an agreement with a European retail optical chain with more than 700 outlets which will begin in January. . . . Rocky Hill, Conn.-based Axsys Technologies Inc., a supplier of precision optical solutions for high-tech applications, received a $3.8 million follow-on order from BAE Systems for infrared lenses for the US Army's Thermal Weapon Sight II program. This is Axsys' second order under the original contract, which is valued at between $9 million and $24 million over five years, depending on US Army demand. . . . Therapeutic products developer MultiCell Technologies Inc. of Lincoln, R.I., announced today that it will fund research into macular degeneration, a common ocular neurodegenerative disease in people over age 65 that can lead to blindness, at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, with the option to exclusively license any products created through the partnership. James C. Tsai, associate professor of ophthalmology at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, will direct the research program.