A local partnership founded to boost medical-related research and economic development has spawned its first company.
The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron announced on Thursday the launch of an orthopedic device company called Apto Orthopaedics.
The startup firm initially is developing a device to treat children with a curvature of the spine known as scoliosis without requiring multiple, painful surgeries. But institute leaders say the home-grown technology could lead to additional products that offer less invasive treatments for fractures and other conditions.
“We are seeing the first bud of our patient-centered innovation and commercialization,” said Dr. Frank L. Douglas, the BioInnovation Institute’s president and chief executive.
The device uses a magnet that can adjust metal screws on implants for scoliosis from outside the body after the initial surgery, eliminating the need for repeat operations.
The product will be geared toward children with early-onset scoliosis that is diagnosed when they are age 9 or younger, said Dr. Todd Ritzman, an orthopedic surgeon at Akron Children’s Hospital who helped invent the device.
The current treatment for these patients requires them to undergo an operation every six months to adjust their implants because their spine is growing, said Ritzman, who specializes in early-onset scoliosis.
He estimates 10 to 20 percent of the roughly 15,000 patients diagnosed with a curvature of the spine annually have early-onset scoliosis.
Apto Orthopaedic’s device should allow patients with this condition to have a more normal childhood, not one defined by pain and surgery, he said.
“The gold standard is effective but there is remarkable room for improvement,” Ritzman said. “It’s effective — but at a cost.”
The goal is to complete laboratory, animal and other required testing and then begin marketing the product within the next two or three years, said Thom Olmstead, the BioInnovation Institute’s director of technology assessment and business development.
“The clinical application and improved health care is really at the heart of this,” Olmstead said.
Stephen D. Fening, director of Orthopaedic Devices for the BioInnovation Institute, began thinking about the need to develop a new medical device for scoliosis patients after attending an industry conference 1› years ago. During the event, he heard about the repeat surgeries necessary to correct the curved spines in young children.
While later watching a television episode of This Old House, he saw magnet devices used to turn a screw inside a wooden bannister from the outside. As he watched the show, he wondered: Why couldn’t the same concept be used for patients?
Fening met with Ritzman and the two then worked with the BioInnovation Institute to develop prototypes and seek provisional patents.
Apto Orthopaedics is a joint venture between Akron Children’s and the BioInnovation Institute, which each have an ownership stake. For now, the new company is housed within the BioInnovation Institute’s headquarters in downtown Akron and managed by the institute’s Medical Device Development Center.
The BioInnovation Institute was created in 2008 by Akron’s three hospital systems, the University of Akron and Northeast Ohio Medical University (Neomed), along with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and local government.
Within a decade, the partnership wants to create 2,400 new jobs and attract at least $50 million worth of investments annually in area health-care companies.
“It’s through that power of collaboration that we are really trying to transform our community,” said William Considine, president and chief executive of Akron Children’s Hospital and chairman of the BioInnovation Institute.
Projects such as the launch of Apto Orthopaedics have the potential to help patients while boosting the region’s economy, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said.
“It means jobs,” Plusquellic said.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell