Researchers at IT Sligo are leading a €1 million EU funded project which could pave the way for more people to receive better and cheaper medical implants faster.
The team involved in “Bio-PolyTec” says greater use of bioresorbable polymer material is set to have a significant effect on modern medicine, with important benefits for patients and manufacturers.
The main obstacle to wider use of the material has been high processing costs. Bio-PolyTec is developing monitoring and control techniques which will speed up processing methods and slash high rates of wastage of the costly material.
The two-year initiative involves partners from five nations and is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (EU FP7) for Research and Technological Development. In addition to IT Sligo, the project partners comprise academics and polymer processing and biomaterials experts at two universities and staff in four companies. .
Bioresorbable polymers have key advantages over metal. These include improved patient recovery, fewer follow-up operations, and the prospect of new devices and therapies coming on to the market. They also have better biocompatibility than traditional implants and break down naturally into the body’s system when they are no longer needed.
The materials are being used increasingly in treatment of trauma and sports injuries, including bone injuries. Project partner, Finnish company Scaffdex OY has also developed an innovative bioresorbable product called ‘RegJoint’ for use in treating osteo and rheumatoid arthritis in small joints of the hand and foot.
Details of the Bio-Poly Tec project were released today (Wed Feb 12) at the official opening of IT Sligo’s new Centre of Precision Engineering and Manufacturing (PEM)
Dr Marion McAfee, the project’s principal investigator, said: “Bio-PolyTec aims to progress the commercial availability of bioresorbable medical implants such as tissue engineering scaffolds and bone fixation screws. We are also looking at effectively incorporating bio-active additives into the polymer. These are gradually released as the polymer breaks down inside the body and can help to regenerate the patient’s own tissue.”
Dr McAfee said: “At present manufacture of these implants is associated with high scrap rates – typically 25-30% – and the material is hugely expensive, so this can be a barrier to successful commercialisation.
“In Bio-Poly Tec we will develop novel instrumentation and control technology to rapidly optimise process set-up and reduce scrap rates to a target 5%. Using the techniques of our German partner, FOS Messtechnik, we are developing new sensors to detect product quality online during processing so manufacturers will know straight away if the product is OK or not.”
Dr McAfee lectures in the Department of Mechanical and Electronic Engineering at IT Sligo and is attached to PEM. The new Centre will focus on collaborating with the manufacturing industry in applied research areas ranging from design, manufacturing process optimisation, micro-machining and nano materials.
The partners in Bio-PolyTec are:
• Institute of Technology Sligo
• Queen’s University, Belfast
• Tampere University of Technology (Finland)
• IPC Polymers Ltd (Ireland)
• Scaffdex Oy (Finland)
• Fos-Messtechnik GmbH (Germany)
• Plasma-Biotal Ltd (UK), which provides bio-active particles for orthopaedic implants.
• Corbion Purac (Netherlands), a manufacturer of bioresorbable polymer.
Tuija Annala, Managing Director of Scaffdex, said: “Improving the manufacturing process will help us to reduce the cost of making RegJoint. It will also enable us to bring a new product to market. At present, the development and manufacturing costs of the new device are too high for the clinical end use, so patients are missing out on a potential treatment.”
Joe Molloy, Technical Director at IPC Polymers, a manufacturer of polymer compounds for the medical industry based in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, said ability to monitor and control the dispersion of additives in a polymer is an important technological development. “Having the additive well-dispersed in the polymer is key for the performance of a medical implant but it can be expensive and time-consuming to achieve.”
He said he is confident that Bio-PolyTec will enable IPC to offer compounding services to medical device end-users with lower costs and shorter lead times.
Mark Billham, Queen’s University, Belfast, Dr David Tormey PEM -IT Sligo Centre, Mr Ray MacSharry, Chair of IT Sligo’s Governing Body, Henrik Bjoerk, IPC Polymers, Joe Molloy, IPC Oolymers and Dr Marion McAfee, at the launch of Bio-PolyTec research project and the Centre of Precision Engineering and Manufacturing.
Photo Caption: Bio-PolyTec Launch 001JC jpg: President of IT Sligo, Professor Terri Scott and Mr Ray MacSharry, Chair of IT Sligo’s Governing Body, with Dr Marion McAfee at the launch of Bio-PolyTec, an EU-funded research project in medical implant materials.
For future information: www.biopolytec.eu