J&J's DePuy buys shape-changing, minimally invasive small bone fixation tech startup

DePuy Orthopaedics has acquired a San Antonio, TX-based startup that stakes a claim to being the first U.S. manufacturer of Nitinol metal implants for musculoskeletal fixation. The company, BioMedical Enterprises (BME), markets a slew of small bone fixation devices made of Nitinol that can change shape--a process that is controlled by temperature and that can provide continuous compression, which is thought to induce bone healing after fixation procedures.

This makes the startup now part of DePuy Synthes, a Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) company. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. BME has disclosed less than $1 million in equity financing to the SEC. Founded in 1998, investors on the company's board are from Tucker Capital, Cross Atlantic Partners and Camden Partners.

"BME's technology is an excellent complement to our comprehensive portfolio of solutions that spans all of orthopaedics," said Ciro Römer, Company Group Chairman at DePuy Synthes, in a statement. "The BME portfolio will be integrated into our trauma platform, where we will be able to expand the availability of these solutions, increase the pace of innovation in this area, and reach more patients around the world."

DePuy Synthes already stakes a claim to being the "global market leader in the foot and ankle and hand and wrist markets for bone fixation in trauma." BME's implants are used to treat bunions, hammertoes and other foot and ankle deformities, as well as hand and wrist deformities.

Its implants are made of Nitinol, a "shape memory" alloy that is made of equal parts nickel and titanium that is commonly used in medical devices. When it's heated to a predefined activation temperature range, Nitinol can increase in strength, change shape and become spring-like, according to the company. The implants come in a preloaded disposable insertion tool, making the procedures minimally invasive.

The activation temperature methods can occur variously based on heat, body temperature or even room temperature. The idea is to use this property to provide continuous, active compression to damaged bones. This places bone cells under constant stress, which is thought to optimize the healing environment. The stress continuous until the implant reaches its predefined shape.

The startup is part of a much larger effort at J&J to introduce more innovation into its medical device business, which was the object of a major restructuring early this year due to flagging sales growth.

The conglomerate has been under pressure from investors to eschew its medical device and consumer businesses due to slow growth. On May 18, J&J is slated to conduct an official review of them--laying out its plans going forward.

- here is the announcement

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