From lab to knee

The device had already been invented a few years previously. But how does one introduce a knee joint distractor like that onto the international market? Innovation Manager Karianne Lindenhovius participated in the MBI Life Sciences & Health program to learn just that. She is impressed with the result.

“The MBI Life Sciences & Health program boosted our venture,” says Karianne Lindenhovius, 43. She founded Pontes Medical, an initiative that helps healthcare innovations get onto the market, under the aegis of the UMC Utrecht, AMC and VUmc. “We have gained access to a wealth of experience and contacts through the highly experienced program coaches.” “I always base my thinking on questions posed by health care professionals,” continues Lindenhovius. “So I found it very useful when, during the MBI Life Sciences & Health program, we visited Isala Hospital Zwolle, where we spoke with an orthopedist, among other specialists.” Lindenhovius is downright enthusiastic about their trip to the United States, where they met investors, innovation managers and marketing experts at Harvard University and the University of California, Irvine. “Americans think in terms of opportunities and that's truly inspiring.  But the trip also produced very useful contacts for us considering our focus on the international market.”
The reason behind all this is the knee joint distractor invented by Floris Lafeber (professor of experimental rheumatology) and Peter van Roermund (orthopedic surgeon). This device pulls the ends of the two knee bones slightly apart for a duration of six weeks, enabling the cartilage to regenerate. This can postpone for at least five years the need for a knee operation to replace a worn-out knee with a prosthesis. Lindenhovius adds, “We know that because it is already ten years since the first patients received this treatment. We now count one hundred patients, most of whom are still free of any pain. This product can be hugely beneficial to patients and highly profitable to society.”
Lindenhovius and Lafeber entered the year-long MBI Life Sciences & Health program as a team in February 2014. They got together two days every month to work on this program. It took them another few days each month to work out their ideas and assignments, but Lindenhovius says it was more than worth it. “This program works best if you can work on a concrete case right from the start; a case that you believe in, a case for which you want to make the utmost effort. And we had just such a case.”

In 2015, driven by the insights of the MBI Life Sciences & Health program, the trio, in collaboration with the Utrecht Holdings, will found a new company to put the product on the market: ArthroSave. The necessary initial investment is already available. ArthroSave is still negotiating additional investments. They have refined the product and are in the process of  applying for a patent on the invention. Lindenhovius and her team hope to be granted CE marking certification, required to be able to actually use the product, in 2015. “The MBI Life Sciences & Health program has produced more for us than I ever dared hope. And faster, too. It had the effect of a pressure cooker, with which we can quickly get a good idea to the patient.”

Foto: Bram Saeys