Zoan Biomed and the University of Galway to develop high throughput rapid assessment methods for biocompatibility and osteogenic potential of orthopaedic scaffold; reducing time to clinical data and developing a path to remove the need for animal testing.
Zoan BioMed and the University of Galway are collaborating to create a novel way of tracking and measuring the formation of bone in the laboratory. This project is funded by Zoan BioMed and Enterprise Ireland through the Innovation Partnership scheme.
Zoan BioMed grow tropical coral, sustainably, in their cutting-edge facility in Co. Galway. Coral shares many chemical and physical properties with bone, making coral an excellent bone substitute, or “scaffold”. Zoan BioMed aims to use coral scaffolds to treat people with bone injuries or other damage (e.g., from tumour removal). Further medical applications are in development using novel combinatorial scaffolds, containing coral and other materials mixed together. These combined scaffolds could be 3D printed to create structures and to be personalised to a patient’s injury.
Critical to evaluating the potential of any new scaffold as it enters the market is the evaluation of its compatibility with human cells and its bone-forming potential.
The current methods of evaluating how well cells can attach and survive on scaffolds and then evaluating bone formation are slow and costly. This is a major contributing factor to the long lead time in developing Orthopaedic products. The current methods are also limited in the depth of their assessment of how scaffolds behave when they are implanted.
This project will substantially speed up the evaluation of new scaffolds for Zoan, and in the future for the orthopaedics industry more widely, by developing high throughput rapid assessment methods for biocompatibility and osteogenic potential, which will shorten the time to clinical trials for new orthopaedics scaffolds. Such new methods are also important in the phasing out of animal testing for new medical devices.
Stephen Wann, Zoan Biomed CEO explains that Zoan recognises the importance of the development of new methods: “This technologyis particularly relevant to Zoan Biomed at our current stage of development. We are looking to develop a pipeline of future products for the orthopaedic market including 3D printed coral-based bone substitutes and have experienced first-hand the time and investment required to demonstrate our biomaterials performance. This investment is going to deliver a seismic improvement in our dataset and delivery times”
Martin Johnson, Head of R&D and Product Development at Zoan is excited about the opportunities this project will create: “Enhanced laboratory screening methods can eliminate or substantially reduce expensive, elongated, ethically challenging animal testing through reliable predictive capability in the laboratory. This will revolutionise orthopaedic material development in the coming decade.“
Dr. Cynthia Coleman at the University of Galway, a long-time collaborator with Zoan Biomed, has expertise in using cells to make bone in the laboratory. She is interested in using these cells to understand the biologic pathways underpinning bone formation. Together, they aim to create a new way of working to advance both research into bone health and regeneration and help speed the development of orthopaedic devices into the clinic.
“Developing this technology is incredibly exciting because it will allow us to see the cells as they move through different stages of bone formation and enable us to measure these changes”, says Dr. Coleman. “This method will help us understand the process by which individual cells become bone tissue and give us the tools to support collaborating academics and industrial partners as they develop technology to support bone formation in the clinic. It will make the evaluation of new scaffolds, quicker and cheaper as well as more reproducible and reliable.”
The global bone grafting market is part of a global $54 billion market that continues to grow at pace, driven by an aging population and patient demand for pain free lifestyles. With the abundance of small and large orthopaedic companies throughout the country, Ireland is uniquely placed to launch high-quality products into this market, bettering the health of the world-wide population.