Medical implants are regularly used to fix and repair bone fragments in the human body. However, the current standard implants have a large number of limitations. Because there is so much diversity between people, type of injuries and bone fractures, there are no customized implants available to treat these conditions optimally. All of this leads to a long surgical and recovery time with an increased risk of infection, inaccuracy, material failure and reduced functional recovery of the patient. In addition, new European regulations for medical devices (MDR) and in vitro diagnostics (IVDR) have been drawn up. The legislation imposes complex requirements on the production conditions of implants. The new rules will affect manufacturers, importers and distributors of medical devices, healthcare institutions, healthcare providers and (indirectly) patients.
The creation and placement of an implant is a sequence of different MedTech specializations such as: materials science, biomechanics, manufacturing technologies, 3D design and 3D printing, IT and visualization technology, clinical research and specialized surgeries.
Five years ago, a group of researchers, clinicians and industries came together with the ambition to answer a question “What if implants were patient-specific, tailored to application, more infection resistant, produce faster?”. With a shared vision, complementary skills and expertise, 13 regional partners started 5 innovation projects to seize innovative solutions to improve the current implant workflow in all his steps. This ranges from the selection of the biomaterials to use, to the design, the manufacturing and the medical procedures required to make personalized implants within a few days from the time a seriously injured patient is hospitalized. The program, which a budget of 8.71 MLN EUR, was supported by Municipality of Groningen and Province Groningen, in addition of an Open Innovation subsidy made available by Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland (SNN), The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, and the European Fund for regional development (EFRO).
The partners included companies such as Witec Innovating Together, which specialised in 3D manufacturing, PolyVation, a research and development polymer company and Bether Encapsulates, a start-up specialised in encapsulation technologies. VDL, Smart Polymers, Elbo Technics, Innovizie and BiomAcs, EV Biotech and H&P Moulding brought they expertise in engineering, 3D printing, biomaterials, design and fermentation.
Clinicians and academic researchers were also part of the network from the University of Groningen, the UMCG and the Hanzehogeschool. Prof. Max Witjes, Ass. Prof. Joep Kraeima and Dr. Frank Ijpma from the 3D Lab Groningen, Oral Diseases & Maxillofacial Surgery Trauma Surgery started this initiative based on their work on new design workflows for jaw and hip implants. Shortly after, Patrick van Rijn, Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering joined with his expertise in biomaterial and polymer sciences applied to nanobubbles, followed by Prof. Marco Harmsen, Medical Biology Dept who worked together with Dr. Jeroen Siebring from the Research Centre Biobased Economy (KCBBE) of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences on resorbable devices for soft tissue repair. The overall project management was performed by the UMCG Innovation Center.
By December 2023, the Personalized Implants ecosystem closes formally, but the partner network aims to continue. During the closing event on 22 November 2023, the partners were all in agreement that such ecosystem structure has consolidated existing connections and led to the creation of new ones, based on a high level of trust among partners and the recognition of the added value of joining multidisciplinary capabilities.
New leads and opportunities have developed already and will come as a result of this regional MedTech network moving forward. In this video below, you can hear directly from some of the partners about their take home messages.
A full video recap is available at https://youtu.be/8RE0B4CPhs8
The ecosystem was made possible by the Open Innovation Subsidy that has been made available by Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland (SNN), Ministerie van Economische Zaken en Klimaat en het @Europees Fonds voor Regionale Ontwikkeling (EFRO), with further support from the Provincie Groningen and the Gemeente Groningen. The program management has been performed by UMCG Innovation Center.