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Industry        Surgeon

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Trauma Surgeon Credits Strong Team in Development of Tendon Product

Posted in Surgeon as Entrepreneur | Nov 2015 | Comments (1)

Tags: surgical techniquestendon repairorthopaedic surgeryorthopaedic surgeonminimally invasive

Erik-Kubiak-2-web copyIn 2011, Erik Kubiak, M.D., an orthopaedic trauma and adult reconstruction surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Utah, co-founded CoNextions Medical to treat tendon repairs differently than traditional, suture-based methods.

Earlier this year, the company received the Utah Innovation Award in the Life Sciences – Medical Device category for its sutureless tendon repair technology, a non-triggering, biocompatible device that removes knot variability. The device is intended to shorten procedure times and produce more durable tendon repairs than those achieved using traditional epitendinous sutures.

CoNextions is working toward FDA clearance and CE Mark approval, expected in the next year.

ORTHOPRENEUR spoke with Kubiak to discuss the product development process and the importance of a strong team to help execute your ideas.

ORTHOPRENEUR: Your company was awarded the Utah Innovation Award for its technology. Can you explain its inception?

Kubiak: Product development typically takes about seven years from the time you finally put the people together to make it happen – which is a pretty quick timeline. This started when I was a resident, the idea of trying to get away from tying a knot to fix soft tissue and patch sutures. Part of it is my background as a commercial fisherman. That’s all we ever did, was tie knots. We had this idea of a sutureless form of fixation or soft tissue fixation.

We worked with bioengineering students here [at the University of Utah] for a couple of years. This university is aggressive about getting ideas out in the local community. We have a unique entrepreneurial community in Utah, particularly in the medical device industry.

My collaborator and a partner, Rich Linder [CEO and President of CoNextions] had success in the endocardial world, which brought interesting talents to the table because in orthopaedics, we don’t do a lot with the materials used in that world and we haven’t traditionally done a lot with little things, like suture anchors and knots.

We got to a point of laying out the basic design concepts. Then, it became a tooling issue. Once it’s a tooling issue, you have to raise capital to make parts. Then, we had the usual fits of a young start-up, such as a monetary/enthusiasm gap that you have to get across. We got to a point recently with consistent devices that, when in the hands of the surgeons who use them, lead to a lot of enthusiasm. We’re at a good point where all of those things have come together.

ORTHOPRENEUR: Do you plan to roll out more products?

Kubiak: One risk of a young company is, when you put a lot of smart people in a room – surgeons and engineers alike – they get bored with finishing things. They really enjoy the start. It’s like you’re building a car and you’ve got the frame and the body panels on and you’re engineering the wheels on, but no one wants to get to the nitty gritty to make sure it lines up just perfectly and it goes and doesn’t pull one direction or the other. A lot of the hard work goes in after the thing looks like it’s done. To become a really viable commercial product, a lot of tinkering still takes place. I think that’s why we often see iterations after the initial product launch.

We’ve maintained a specific, diligent focus on tendon fixation in Zone 2 of the hand, which is the part of the hand that has the worst outcomes and is the most demanding to design around.

The philosophy of that is, if you do the hardest thing first, then all the other stuff will come less painfully.



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Andrew M Merkel 01/19/2016 03:13 PM
You have not made any mention of Liquidmetal, the material you have chosen to use in your advanced technology. If this is such a breakthrough, why have you not made mention of this amazing material?