Cleveland Clinic spinout VisionAir, a maker of 3D-printed airway stents, acquired by Theken

Theken Companies, an Ohio-based family of medical implant makers, has found the next member of its family within the Buckeye State.

The conglomerate has acquired VisionAir Solutions, a spinout centered around technology developed at the Cleveland Clinic, the pair announced this week. VisionAir’s flagship technology churns out 3D-printed airway stents that are personalized to each patient’s anatomy. 

Though the financial terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed, the companies did note in the announcement that the Cleveland Clinic staffers who invented VisionAir’s tech, as well as the health system itself, are all entitled to future royalty payments and other shares of the revenues that the technology ultimately brings in for Theken.

The VisionAir 3D Stent Architect software is a 3D-design platform. Pulmonologists simply upload a patient’s CT scan into the cloud and use the cursor to fit a virtual stent to the patient’s airway. The automated system takes care of the rest of the process, designing an implant that’ll slot perfectly into the patient’s anatomy in accordance with the doctor’s guidelines.

Once the doctor has approved the finished design, VisionAir 3D-prints out the stent using a medical-grade silicone material and mails it off within a few days.

VisionAir’s stents were initially cleared by the FDA in early 2020, and an enhanced version of the technology—featuring the now semi-automated design process—received a follow-up clearance (PDF) last year. The stents have been greenlighted for use in opening up narrowed airways in patients at least 22 years old.

Though VisionAir’s implants could potentially last several years, according to the company, they’re cleared only to stay implanted for up to one full year—still several times longer than many other airway stents, which typically stay in place for just a few weeks. They can also be fitted to any area of the airway that can be reached by a rigid bronchoscope, compared to other stents that can only be placed where the trachea splits to reach the left and right lungs.

“I was truly overwhelmed by the technology created by the VisionAir team at Cleveland Clinic,” Randy Theken, founder and CEO of the eponymous company, said in the announcement. “The VisionAir 3D patient-specific stents provide significantly improved stent life and an improved patient quality of life. This is exciting not only for the pulmonary field, but for the potential to apply this technology to other medical devices.”

Theken founded the medical device conglomerate in 1992, with an original focus on orthopedic implants. But in the years since, Theken Spine, Theken Disc and synthetic bone substitute maker Therics were acquired by Integra LifeSciences in a 2008 deal worth up to $200 million. Theken proceeded to establish joint implant devicemaker NextStep Arthropedix, and the company has also expanded its focus to span 3D manufacturing, medical ceramics, microelectronics and more.