Smith & Nephew partners with startup for knee surgical system

Navio surgical knee system--Courtesy of Blue Belt

Orthopedic specialist Smith & Nephew ($SNN) will market Blue Belt's surgical knee system in a worldwide agreement between the pair. For Smith & Nephew, this could help breathe fresh life into its flagging knee implant revenue growth. The partnership with Smith & Nephew is the startup's first major distribution deal.

The knee system uses Blue Belt's Navio surgical system, which provides surgeons with robotics assistance for partial knee replacement procedures. The Navio system incorporates navigation software and a hand-held, computer-controlled, bone-shaping tool. Launched in the U.S. market in 2013, more than 450 Navio-assisted unicondylar knee replacement procedures have been performed. These are a less invasive alternative to a total knee replacement.

The knee system was cleared last year by the FDA. Blue Belt hopes to add a broad range of minimally invasive surgical applications using this system including hip, spine and skull indications.

Blue Belt was founded in 2003 and acquired by private equity group HealthpointCapital in 2011 for an undisclosed amount. When HealthpointCapital bought the company, they brought in Eric Timko as president and CEO. He previously held the same title with hemorrhagic stroke device company NeuroVasx and had been a VP at Siemens.

Smith & Nephew's knee franchise hasn't exactly been thriving of late. During the first quarter, the company's knee implant revenue was flat, below the 3% market growth rate. In the U.S., it actually declined 1%. In March, Smith & Nephew also launched the Journey II CR Knee System for procedures that preserve the posterior cruciate ligament, a procedure that the company said accounts for about half of knee replacement procedures.

- here is the press release

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