Kick Start To Development Of Innovative Knee Repair Device Based On Silk Technology

Orthox Limited, the tissue repair company using silk technology, announced the award of a prestigious Wellcome Trust Translational Award worth over £1.6 million.

Orthox is developing a range of novel orthopaedic products for the repair of cartilage. The Company’s core technology is Spidrex® cartilage – a remarkable silk biomaterial combining the resilience, high strength and bioresorption found in spider silk. The silk technology is the result of a decade of research by Oxford University scientists, Professor Fritz Vollrath and Dr David Knight.

The Wellcome Award will be used to fund the development of Orthox’s regenerative meniscal (knee cartilage) repair device. The meniscus is a crescent-shaped cartilage pad found in the knee joint between the femur (the thigh bone) and the tibia (the shin bone). The meniscus acts principally as a shock absorber, to dissipate forces and stabilise the knee joint.

Meniscal injury is a huge, unsolved clinical problem, especially with ‘baby boomers’. It is associated with aging, obesity, and sport injuries. Damage to the meniscus is difficult to repair successfully and frequently results in osteoarthritis; eventually knee joint replacement is often required. Knee replacements now cost the NHS more each year than total hip replacements, estimated at nearly £1bn by 2010.

Approximately 1.3 million meniscal arthroscopies – knee repair procedures – are performed in the developed world each year, but there is currently no proven long term effective remedy. A recent American study estimated that almost half of all adults will develop osteoarthritis of the knee by age 85; the odds increase if people are obese in middle age.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Richard Seabrook, Head of Business Development at the Wellcome Trust, said, “Largely thanks to medical advances in recent decades, people are living longer, more active lives. But coupled with increasing obesity, this means knee problems are now a major issue for health services across the world. The Wellcome Trust appreciates both the need to find a regenerative solution to knee damage and the potential of the Spidrex® technology to address an increasingly common but complex clinical problem.”

Founder and CEO, Dr Nick Skaer added, “We are delighted that our innovative technology has gained recognition by the UK’s leading biomedical foundation, the Wellcome Trust. This funding will enable us to initiate the roll-out of our pipeline of Spidrex® products, starting with our meniscal repair device. In the future, we plan to develop further Spidrex® products for other serious orthopaedic problems, such as spinal disc repair and bone regeneration. This significant award provides the springboard for a major equity finance round which Orthox will launch later in 2009.

Source: The Wellcome Trust

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