‘Synthetic cartilage’ startup Hyalex reels in $16M

Hyalex Orthopaedics raised $16 million in a series A round that will support the development of a synthetic polymer that mimics cartilage, which could lead to an alternative treatment for osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear” arthritis, affects more than 30 million adults in the U.S. each year. It is typically treated with a combination of physical activity and weight loss, support devices, physical therapy and pain-relieving drugs. Severe cases may require joint replacement surgery, the CDC says.

Licensed from Stanford University, the Hyalex technology is a synthetic biomaterial that behaves like the hyaline cartilage that lines joints such as the hip, knee and shoulder, according to a statement.

“The technology offers the ability to maintain an extremely low wear profile even at high loads,” said Lampros Kourtis, Hyalex founder and chief technology officer. Instead of using joint replacements, Kourtis envisions using Hyalex to treat osteoarthritis by replacing arthritic cartilage and “sparing healthy bone.”

“While joint replacement surgery is a viable option for many patients experiencing joint degeneration, younger patients may encounter some limitations in mobility and face future joint revisions,” said Wende Hutton, general partner for Canaan Partners, which led the financing. A less invasive approach, such as Hyalex, could be more appropriate for younger patients.

Along with the financing, the company announced the appointment of Mira Sahney as president and CEO. Sahney cofounded Myomo, which is working on a myoelectric arm orthosis to support a weak or deformed arm, and served as senior vice president and general manager of ENT and gynecology at orthopedics specialist Smith & Nephew.

“The HYALEX polymer has the potential to replace damaged cartilage in joints, creating the opportunity for a less invasive, more anatomic solution in disease states such as osteoarthritis or cartilage injuries,” Sahney said. “We are seeking to use this technology to improve standard of care for the approximate 3 million joint replacement procedures annually worldwide, particularly for younger patients who seek long active lives following their surgeries.”

Other players seeking alternative treatments include Cartiva, which makes an FDA-approved cartilage implant for osteoarthritis of the big toe. The standard of care is fusing the bones of the foot with screws and plates. Meanwhile, Myoscience is focusing on relieving chronic pain from the disease—its cold therapy system recently earned the FDA nod. It targets specific nerves to temporarily ease pain from osteoarthritis of the knee.