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How J&J is Boning Up on 3-D Printing

Johnson & Johnson's DePuy Synthes has acquired an early-stage 3-D printing technology aimed at healing bone defects.

Amanda Pedersen

The industry has only just scratched the surface of bringing 3-D printing into the medical arena, but a recent Johnson & Johnson acquisition is an indicator of the ultimate promise the technology holds for medtech. 

Find out which emerging technologies physicians and hospitals are excited about at the BIOMEDevice Boston Conference, May 3-4, 2017.
J&J's DePuy Synthes has acquired an early-stage 3-D printing technology aimed at healing bone defects.

West Chester, PA-based DePuy Synthes Products Inc. acquired 3-D printing technology from Tissue Regeneration Systems Inc. (TRS) for an undisclosed amount.

Although the technology is still in the early stages of development, DePuy expects to eventually use it to make patient-specific bioresorbable implants with a unique mineral coating to support bone healing in patients with orthopedic and craniomaxillofacial deformities and injuries. 

"It's really moving beyond 'made for many' to 'made for me'," Robert Urban, PhD, global head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, told Qmed.

The deal was born out of a relationship between Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Plymouth, MI-based TRS that began in 2014.

"To me, it seems like it happened so quickly, in a relatively short amount of time of working really closely together," Urban said. "That's what Johnson & Johnson Innovation is built to do."

He said the deal is a testament to the program's ability to identify and work collaboratively with promising early-stage companies and entrepreneurs to fast-track new products to the commercial market.

TRS develops skeletal reconstruction and bone regeneration technology based on research from the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin.

IV Hall, global franchise leader for DePuy Synthes Trauma, told Qmed that working with J&J's innovation centers gave DePuy an opportunity to get in early with this technology. But because it is at such an early stage, he said, the company still has some work to do before bringing the technology to the market.

"While we see it is extremely interesting, and we see the capability in our trauma and craniomaxillofacial lines, we still have some development to do," Hall said. "We're looking at it to really play a big role in our platform, but we haven't really sat down and assessed exactly where we're going to put it yet."

Hall said DePuy Synthes currently has a very broad, off-the-shelf portfolio of products that are primarily metallic based. Although a lot of those products are anatomically designed and fitted, they are still mass produced for a general population, as opposed to being individually customized for each patient.

"When you really think about where the complexity comes into play is the fractures in trauma, the deformity of the skeletal system, they're all very unique to our patients," Hall said. "So having a very patient-specific, or personalized implant and instrumentation, that's something that can really bring value to the overall system."

Amanda Pedersen is Qmed's news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

[Image credit: Johnson & Johnson Innovation]

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