NUI Galway-based medical device spin-out company, Loci Orthopaedics have announced today the closing of a €2.75 million seed round investment to commercialise a new orthopaedic joint implant for a common but crippling joint condition.

Loci Orthopaedics is an independent leader in the development of a potentially life-changing, ergonomic, and clinically evidence-based solution to address the increasing unmet clinical need for thumb base joint arthritis. The company is developing the InDx Implant to meet this need and access a market estimated at over €550 million per annum. Arthritis of the thumb base joint causes significant functional impairment of the hand. Those with this condition are either restricted in, or often lose the ability to perform, everyday tasks such as using a mobile phone, turning keys in a door, and even writing due to increasingly severe pain.

This unmet clinical need was identified by the co-founders of the company, Dr Brendan Boland a clinician, and Mr Gerry Clarke a medical device industry veteran with over 40 years medical device experience, while they were Fellows on the BioInnovate Ireland Programme, which is co-funded by Enterprise Ireland. During this programme, Brendan and Gerry were based in UCC and undertook several hundred hours of clinical monitoring in Cork University hospitals to identify hundreds of unmet clinical needs, from which the surgical management of thumb base joint arthritis stood out as a particularly significant unmet need with a large affected patient population.

Enterprise Ireland funded the development work at NUI Galway through a Commercialisation Fund programme. The Commercialisation Fund programme is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under Ireland’s European Union Structural and Investment Funds Programme 2014-2020.

5% of the population suffer severe thumb base arthritis. This equates to over 40 million people in the US and EU with significant symptoms. This condition is most common in those aged over 65. As the population of the US and EU ages, the number affected by this debilitating condition is set to increase dramatically in the next 15 years.

There are more than 200,000 surgical procedures carried out each year in the EU and the US combined for severe thumb base arthritis. Due to the lack of a reliable and clinically satisfactory solution, there is a wide gap between symptomatic patients and patients currently progressing to surgery, demonstrating the substantial growth potential for new therapy solutions. The total current total addressable surgical market for thumb base arthritis procedures in the US and EU is estimated at over $600 million per annum. This market size is set to increase further due to several concurrent market growth drivers, such as an aging population, an increase in those most affected, and a lack of tolerance of poor hand function.

This funding will provide financing for 24 months and will be used to advance product development in preparation for clinical trials, initiation of US commercialisation, initiation of EU regulatory approval, clinical follow-up and regulatory approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr Brendan Boland, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Loci Orthopaedics, said: “Securing this seed round funding will put Loci Orthopaedics firmly on track to achieve the short and medium-term goals required towards getting this product to market to relieve the daily suffering of many patients.”

Mr Gerry Clarke, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Loci Orthopaedics, said: “Thumb base arthritis has a huge impact on the quality of life, and on the independence of patients as they age. Can you imagine having pain on simple day to day tasks such as turning keys in a door, opening a jar, or using your phone? This is the prospect faced by millions of people who are restricted in their daily activities and enjoyment of life. It is these patients we want to help, by bringing the first evidence-based implant design to market for this common but disabling condition.”

The Loci Orthopaedics team have been working with three of the world’s leading hand surgeons and have used their most cutting-edge research as the basis for the implant design. These surgeons based in Stanford University, Brown University and KU Leuven in Belgium are key-opinion leaders in this area of orthopaedic medicine.

The InDx Implant is the only implant that can fully mimic the natural but complex motions of the thumb joint as it provides two points of rotation that can move both concurrently and independently of each other while enabling the joint to move in all six degrees of freedom.

The device is also easier to insert and less invasive than any currently available surgical treatment option for this condition. As a result, the InDx Implant will provide excellent clinical outcomes and decrease the risk of surgical and clinical complications. The device offers an exciting new, patient-sensitive treatment option to patients and surgeons and has been designed in conjunction with three of the world’s leading hand surgeons ensuring all end-user requirements are met.

Alan Hobbs, Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up Manager, commented: “Enterprise Ireland is delighted to support Loci Orthopaedics, a High Potential Start-Up driving innovation in medcare. Loci are a great example of a market-led innovative company addressing unmet medical needs and a substantial market opportunity. We congratulate them and look forward to continuing working with them to achieve their global ambitions.”

David Murphy, Director of the Technology Transfer Office in NUI Galway, said: “The founders have strong Intellectual Property and have amassed a world class team around them. We are confident that this combination will enable them to progress quickly in this next phase of their journey. We congratulate Loci Orthopaedics on reaching this important milestone.” 

Dr Faisal Sharif, Director of BioInnovate Ireland in NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to see Loci Orthopaedics close a €2.75 million seed round investment. This funding will enable them to commercialise their InDx Implant device that will considerably improve patients’ lives. This is a significant step in getting this device to those who need it. The mission of BioInnovate Ireland is to grow the indigenous Medtech sector through dedicated training in medical device innovation. BioInnovate Ireland supports fellows to identify unmet needs in different clinical areas through a dedicated fellowship programme which is co-funded by Enterprise Ireland. The success of Loci Orthopaedics signifies the importance of identifying such unmet clinical needs.”

Preliminary research indicates that this device design may also have clinical indications in other small joints of the hands and feet, as well as other joints with complex biomechanics such as the shoulder and elbow.

The €2.75 million funding is provided by a combination of institutions comprising of: the investment arm of KU Leuven University in Belgium, which was recently ranked by Forbes as Europe’s most innovative university, Enterprise Ireland and the Western Development Commission. These institutions are complemented by some MedTech industry veterans.

For more information about Loci Orthopaedics, visit: www.lociorthopaedics.com

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