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Start-Up Developing Nanotech Bone Repairs

Foot x-ray

Foot x-ray showing fractured heel bone (Jojo, Wikimedia Commons)

9 December 2016. An enterprise formed earlier this year is licensing an engineered bone tissue repair technology that mixes ultrafine diamond particles with biocompatible polymers. The company, OrthoMend Research Inc. in Philadelphia, is licensing the technology from Temple University, although financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

OrthoMend Research is acquiring exclusive rights to research conducted at Temple by engineering and medical professor Peter Lelkes on nanotechnology-based biomaterials, at first for improving the healing of bone fractures. The technology in this case combines nanoscale diamond particles with biocompatible polymer materials to improve healing of broken bones. Research published by Lelkes and others in 2012 indicates adding nano-diamonds to the polymer poly-L-lactic acid, or PLLA, reinforces bone scaffolds, improving their mechanical properties.

A U.S. patent for the technology issued to Lelkes and other inventors in 2015 says the combination of nano-diamonds and PLLA has advantages over metal connectors for bone repair, notably no temperature sensitivity, no interference with diagnostic imaging, and low toxicity. The patent also says nano-diamonds outperform other nanoscale carbon forms, including fullerenes and carbon nanotubes.

“The licensing of our invention to OrthoMend Research,” says Lelkes in a company statement, “is an important milestone in our efforts to translate our basic research from the bench to the bedside and will, without a doubt, result in commercial products that will benefit patients around the globe.” Lelkes is serving as a scientific advisor to OrthoMend.

Joseph Connell, OrthoMend’s founder and CEO, says the company first plans to apply the technology as a replacement for metal hardware, such as pins, screws, and plates, made by injection molding and used for bone fractures. But the company wants to expand those uses of nano-diamonds into delivery of drugs via a matrix, including bone growth hormone, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory therapeutics.

The company was formed in March 2016 and is incubated at University City Science Center, an accelerator and shared space for new science-based enterprises in Philadelphia.

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