Porcine bone-graft technology first for SA
Novel South African bone-grafting technology has been patented and could save patients money and reduce pain and theatre time.
The technology - developed with R16,5m from South Africa's fledgling Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) - involves inserting demineralised pig bone into a bone void or fracture to provide a scaffold for bone growth.
When bone grafts are needed, doctors usually harvest bone from patients' hips or use a matching bone tissue from deceased donors, which requires a second operative site or a matching donor.
While bone morphogenetic protein complexes have been used internationally for many years, Altis Biologics CEO Nicolaas Duneas said his company's product - Altis Osteogenic Bone Matrix - was unique as it was injectable. It is produced from pigs and can be stored at room temperature.
"It's one of those technologies that would not have been looked at by your normal South African venture capitalist or banks," the agency's CEO, Simphiwe Duma, said. "It was not tried and tested."
After the technology had been tested on a small sample of humans, private capital could come in because "if TIA has taken it to this point, there is less risk involved", Mr Duma said.
The agency's GM for health and project leader, Carl Montague, said: "It was a very long time in development, and the developers had a number of setbacks, but they have launched their product."
The South African Medicines Control Council gave permission for Altis Osteogenic Bone Matrix to be marketed in South Africa as a medical device, and it had been patented internationally, Dr Duneas said.
Of the money received from the agency, about R500000 was used to secure patents in the US, UK, Germany, France and Finland. "Without intellectual property rights protection, the chances of raising venture capital are quite small," Dr Duneas said.
But other challenges face innovators, such as bureaucratic processes in state organs. "(In) all these institutions, people battle at an individual level, but we can help," Mr Duma said. "This assistance is probably more important than the money."
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