NUI Galway has initiated an Enterprise Ireland-funded innovation partnership programme with Galway-based medtech firm Loci Orthopaedics.
Through this programme, Enterprise Ireland and NUI Galway will help Loci Orthopaedics access the latest skills and expertise from research institutes throughout Ireland.
The medtech start-up will have access to 3D printing facilities at NUI Galway’s School of Mechanical Engineering, which will be used to advance a solution that Loci Orthopaedics is developing for dealing with arthritis of the thumb.
Loci Orthopaedics was founded as a spin-out from NUI Galway in 2017. It was set up by Dr Brendan Boland and Gerry Clarke, who aimed to improve the lives of arthritis patients through the development of orthopaedic technologies.
Last year, it was awarded a €2.5m grant for its medical device InDx, which is an implant for the base of the thumb. The company has also developed a new surface architecture for orthopaedic stem components, called the Osteo Anchor, which incorporates a multitude of tiny anchor features for embedding into the bone during implantation.
Support from NUI Galway
Dr Noel Harrison, mechanical engineering lecturer and programme director at NUI Galway and funded investigator in the SFI centre I-Form, said: “Direct industry research engagement such as this, particularly with Galway’s medtech global hub, is a critical feature of our activity in mechanical engineering.
“This project reflects the industrial relevance of 3D printing for our students and researchers. The state-of-the-art suite of printing capabilities in plastics, composites and metals in our advanced manufacturing lab continues to attract multi-sector industry and academic collaborations for material and process optimisation and provides valuable experience for our students.”
Dr Eimear O’Hara, NUI Galway graduate in mechanical engineering and research fellow on the project, added: “I’m very excited to directly work with industry on this novel medical device project utilising the unique design freedoms of metal 3D printing and our knowledge of the printing process and materials.
“It is fantastic to be able to design, manufacture and test novel orthopaedics devices in-house, thus enabling local start-up and company growth.”
Growing popularity of 3D printing
In its statement, NUI Galway said that additive manufacturing continues to be an area of significant growth in the global healthcare technology space, where there is an increasing number of orthopaedic products being printed.
There is now a declining cost difference between 3D-printed and traditionally manufactured implants, which is enabling device manufacturers to expand the applications of 3D printing in the musculoskeletal sector.
According to NUI Galway, the number of 3D-printed medical devices cleared for clinical use by the FDA in the US has increased by 400pc since 2014, indicating a tipping point has been reached in the acceptance of these implants by the regulators and the market.
Loci Orthopaedics co-founder and CEO Boland said: “The programme is a great opportunity to work within the academic-clinical-industry model. The OsteoAnchor technology was originally developed by Dr Harrison, an international leader in the field of 3D printing for orthopaedic implants.
“The company now gets to work with Dr Harrison and his extensive technological knowledge to further develop this product. Loci Orthopaedics works with world-leading orthopaedic surgeons … who can provide ongoing input into the incorporation of this technology into new implants.
“The company has already developed products in the area so have the expertise and extensive industry contacts that can help advance this product to market to enter a rapidly growing and lucrative market segment.”
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