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Sector: Medtech Category: Portfolio Progress, Technology Transfer

Imperial Innovations is pleased to announce the launch of Orthonika, a spinout company from Imperial College London that is developing a novel knee meniscus replacement. Orthonika is a collaboration with Sierra MedTech, a specialist in the design and fabrication of engineered substrates for use in medicine. Orthonika has been launched through Co.Create, the company formation unit of Imperial Innovations with initial seed-funding of £150,000 raised by Sierra MedTech from a group of angel investors.

The knee meniscus is a fibrocartilaginous structure that supports the mechanical integrity of the knee and helps to distribute impact. Meniscal tearing is a very common injury and often leads to severe pain, restricted movement, and osteoarthritis. These tears occur most often in athletes and the elderly and rarely heal.

Currently, damage to the knee meniscus can be treated by removing the damaged tissue, which can lead to further problems. Strategies exist to promote repair of the meniscus, and human tissue transplants are possible, but their use is limited and effectiveness uncertain.

To combat this, a team of Imperial scientists, led by Professors Andrew Amis (Mechanical Engineering) and Justin Cobb (Surgery & Cancer) have collaborated with Sierra MedTech to design a full substitution system for the knee meniscus. To do this, the scientists studied the structure and function of healthy menisci and applied unique manufacturing technologies to replicate the native structure and organisation of the tissue.

Design work began in 2009 and has gone through several prototypes. Orthonika was formed in order to combine design and development expertise to further the advancement of the meniscus substitute into a product and obtain regulatory approval and clinical application.

Professors Amis and Cobb will sit on the company’s Board of Directors, alongside Dr Mario Alberto Accardi, Massimiliano Graziosi and Dominique Kleyn from Sierra MedTech, and Tom Buckland from Imperial Innovations. Orthonika will be included in Imperial Innovations’ Co.Create portfolio.

Prof Andrew Amis, co-founder of Orthonika, said:

“The meniscus has an extremely complex structure and is subject to high stresses. It needs to be both elastic and strong, capable of adapting to an individual’s movement. Our team has studied the structure of a natural meniscus and how it reacts to different forces to design a substitute that would function like a natural meniscus. We have also designed a surgical insertion procedure and related instruments, such as a secure means of fixation to the bone.

“I look forward to working with the rest of Orthonika to turn our current prototype into clinical reality.”

Mario Alberto Accardi, Ph.D., co-founder of Orthonika, said:

“Meniscus injuries are extremely common and can be very debilitating. Here we have an opportunity to cater for a significant unmet need. This innovation pushes the boundaries of orthopaedics and medical engineering and builds on strong synergies between disciplines. Working with the Professors who taught me as an Imperial student is a privilege and a great life coincidence”.

Dominique Kleyn, CEO of Sierra MedTech and co-founder of Orthonika, said:

“We are very excited to form this collaboration with Imperial Innovations and we look forward to combining our expertise in the use of textiles and fibre-reinforced materials in medicine and surgery with the designs developed by Professors Amis’ and Cobb’s team to create the first fully anatomical replacement for damaged knee menisci.

“There are many joint injuries involving cartilage damage and we believe that, in the future, this technology could be adapted to treat a range of injuries.”

Tony Hickson, Managing Director Technology Transfer at Imperial Innovations, said:

“The science developed at Imperial is at the very forefront of orthopaedic implant technology and the result of thorough study and experimentation. We are excited to form a company that combines expertise from Imperial and Sierra MedTech, both leaders in their fields, to create a product that could revolutionise the field of orthopaedics and meniscus deficiency.

“The formation of Orthonika through Co.Create is another example of the myriad ways Imperial Innovations can work with both academia and industry to bring the results of scientific research to market.”