J&J buys 3D-printing tech to create bone-healing implants

DePuy Synthes Products
J&J's DePuy Synthes is adding TRS' 3D printing technology to its trauma business.

Johnson & Johnson has acquired 3D-printing technology from Tissue Regeneration Systems. The deal gives J&J’s DePuy Synthes Products unit technology for creating personalized bioabsorbable implants designed to aid the healing of bones.

J&J plans to use the technology to print implants that treat orthopedic and craniomaxillofacial deformities and injuries. This is in line with TRS’ plans for the technology. TRS, a company with the tag line “giving patients back their smiles,” emerged in 2008 to turn research at the University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin into devices for reconstructing skeletons and regenerating bones.

The resulting technology consists of two elements. One part is the 3D-printing technology itself. TRS bases the geometry of each personalized device on CT scans, resulting in implants that should be a close match for the missing bits of bone. Surgeons can adapt implants in the operating room to make them a better fit.

TRS’ implants use scaffold technology designed to create devices that are porous enough to be integrated into the bone, while remaining strong enough to bear loads while the body is healing. As healing happens, the device is fully replaced by bone.

This process is facilitated by the second element of the technology: A mineral coating. By coating its implants with a “plate-like nanostructure that resembles living bone,” TRS thinks it can support bone regeneration and proliferation. The idea is to provide a surface that autologous cells and growth factors stick to and grow on.

TRS put most of its efforts into developing the technology for use in craniomaxillofacial surgery. Today, surgeons typically treat injuries to the mouth, jaws, face and skull by taking bone from another part of the patient’s body. TRS thinks its implants can eliminate the need to harvest bone grafts and cut the need for midoperation modification by providing surgeons with tailormade devices.

J&J is sufficiently impressed by the potential of the technology to add it to DePuy Synthes’ trauma business, continuing its push into 3D printing.

“We are systematically investing in building a pipeline of 3D printed products,” Ciro Römer, group chairman at DePuy Synthes, said in a statement. “The TRS technology, which will be added to the DePuy Synthes Trauma Platform, is the latest example of how we are working toward developing next-generation technologies that transform healthcare delivery with individualized solutions for patients.”

J&J has penned 50 collaborations to give it a beachhead in the emerging 3D-printing sector. DePuy Synthes’ relationship with TRS began this way. In 2014, TRS was pulled into the global network set up by Johnson & Johnson Innovation and began working with DePuy Synthes.