Orthos secures funding for synthetic bone substitute

Welsh spine and orthopaedic medical device company Orthos has secured £835,000 of funding to bring its βGel synthetic bone substitute to market.

The material, which can be moulded by hand, has been specially designed to treat bone defects in the spine and, according to the company, could minimise the risk of infection associated with bone-implant surgery.

Orthos’ chief technology officer, Alan Rorke, said that its calcium-phosphate βGel would be more effective than existing granular versions currently on the market, as it could better mould into gaps found between defective bones.

‘The beta gel material takes the calcium-phosphate mineral and suspends it in a reverse-phase hydrogel,’ explained Rorke. ‘That means it has different mechanical and physical characteristics at different temperatures. So at room temperature it is liquid, but at body temperature it solidifies.’

The βGel can be delivered via an injection or used in putty form and only sets once it is inside the body. The existing bone can then use it as a scaffold while breaking down its minerals to help speed up the repair process.

Chairman Peter Gibson believes that synthetic bone substitutes are set to become increasingly popular in healthcare. ‘Surgeons are keenly adopting new implant and surgical techniques, particularly in spinal surgery,’ he said. ‘[The investment] comes at an exciting stage in Orthos’ development and will enable us to expand our range of products.’

Orthos recently relocated to Cwmbran from Bristol and has since secured a £500,000 equity investment from Finance Wales, a £60,000 angel follow-on investment and £275,000 Welsh Assembly Government funding.

There are an estimated 700,000 vertebral compression fractures each year in the US and 850,000 a year in Europe. Finance Wales believes that these figures could increase as osteoporosis becomes more common among an ageing population.