J&J leads $15M for Israeli startup to back cartilage, bone regeneration implant

Agili-C--Courtesy of CartiHeal

Johnson & Johnson Innovation and JJDC, the innovation-focused arms of Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), have co-led a $15 million financing for CartiHeal to back its cell-free, tissue-regenerating implant called Agili-C that has a CE mark. The implant is used for procedures in the knee, ankle and big toe that indicate a need for regeneration of cartilage and the underlying bone, in addition to reduction in pain and other related symptoms.

The Israeli startup expects to use the financing to scale up manufacturing in anticipation of a 2017 commercial launch in Europe. It will also test Agili-C, which has already been implanted in almost 200 European patients, in additional indications.

"The Agili-C implant has demonstrated outstanding ability to reproducibly regenerate hyaline cartilage", said CartiHeal founder and CEO Nir Altschuler in a statement. "Agili-C enables biological resurfacing of cartilage and its underlying subchondral bone through a tissue regeneration process. The device is suitable for a wide range of pathologies from focal traumatic lesions to moderate stages of osteoarthritis."

Agili-C is an off-the-shelf implant that regenerates hyaline cartilage and its underlying subchondral bone. The CE mark is specifically for the treatment of focal articular cartilage and osteochondral defects.

In clinical studies, the rigid biphasic, biodegradable implant has been shown to promote migration, adhesion, proliferation and differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to simultaneously regenerate bone and cartilage. That leads to significant improvement in pain level and reduction in other symptoms, as well as cartilage formation as shown in an MRI.

CartiHeal was founded in 2009 based on technology from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Existing investors Elron, Accelmed, Access Medical Ventures and Peregrine Ventures also participated in this latest financing.

"It will provide a good solution for a vast unmet need, especially for patients with osteoarthritis who do not respond to conservative treatment while their condition is not severe enough to justify full joint replacement," concluded Altschuler. "This investment will position CartiHeal as a significant player in the treatment of early osteoarthritis."

- here is the announcement