Orthox spins up $12M for trials of spider-inspired artificial cartilage implant

Spider-inspired technology isn’t just for comic book characters anymore. A biomaterial that’s made of silk and takes its construction cues from the strength of spiderwebs has the potential to replace worn-down cartilage around the human knee and encourage the natural tissue to regrow around it, according to its makers.

Hoping to prove those claims outright, Oxford-based Orthox will soon bring its FibroFix technology into clinical trials. It’ll be helped along by a newly closed series A round, which recently pulled in one last tranche of funding from a group of new and existing investors.

The final bout of financial support brought in an additional £3.2 million, or about $4.3 million, which boosted Orthox’s total series A take to £9.2 million, or about $12.5 million.

The round was led by Parkwalk, a serial investor in U.K.-based university spinouts, and also included participation from the Oxford Technology and Innovations investment fund, Perivoli Innovations and Additio Investment Group.

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With the funding in hand, Orthox is now aiming to begin recruiting its first cohort of six patients to undergo an initial safety study in the U.K., based on a six-month follow-up period. If successful, the trial will be expanded to a pool of 75 patients, who will be monitored for two years after their FibroFix implants.

Orthox has also applied for regulatory approval to open clinical trial sites in Budapest and is planning to look into expanding the trial to other hospitals in Europe.

A positive outcome from the clinical trial would allow Orthox to enter the market for tissue regeneration technologies to treat major cartilage defects, a sector that Neil Cameron, investment director at Parkwalk, said is forecasted to reach $7 billion within the next two years.

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FibroFix is constructed from the fibroin protein extracted from silk produced by the domestic silk moth. The protein is formed into the smooth FibroFix implants using the same processes that spiders use when spinning their ultra-strong webs.

The strength of the implants makes them a viable replacement for the articular cartilage that covers the ends of the thigh and shin bones and is easily damaged or worn down by sports injuries and other traumatic events. The FibroFix technology is also designed to allow the existing tissue to regrow within and around the implant, encouraging the body to essentially heal itself.

“FibroFix is unique in emulating the functional properties of cartilage while also facilitating rapid tissue regeneration in patients suffering the debilitating effects of serious knee cartilage injuries,” Orthox CEO Nick Skaer, Ph.D., said in a statement. “With our approach there is significant bone sparing and strong tissue integration of the implant, which will result in much faster patient recovery from surgery.”