Keys to Success in the Spine Device Market & Beyond: Q&A With Eric Olson of Amedica FeaturedWritten by Laura Dyrda | Tuesday, 04 December 2012 23:32
Eric Olson, CEO of Amedica, discusses why his company's proprietary silicon nitride material has been so successful in the spine device market and where the company is headed in the future.
Q: What is unique about Amedica's silicon nitride material?
Eric Olson: The proprietary technology we sell, silicon nitride, has two unique characteristics that are innate to the material itself: it helps with osteointegration in bone and has an antimicrobial characteristic that most other materials don't have. Silver has similar characteristics and there are a lot of companies looking at developing devices with that material, especially as we move toward limited or no global reimbursement or provide payment for Medicare patient readmission to the hospital within 30-days of their initial procedure.
The other unique thing about our material is that it's past the development phase and on the market right now. We have done more than 9,250 interbody implants and we've had great success with this product. We have had studies come out in several publications and peer reviewed journals and we were able to expand our marketing claims on our devices to talk about the osteointegration and anti-infective characteristics.
Q: How were you able to be so successful in the spine device market?
EO: As a company, silicon nitride's unique qualities have an impact on our valuation and ability to capture market share. The interbody market is a $1.6 billion market segment for us to go after and compete against other technologies that don't have the same positive benefits. For spinal fusions specifically, the most important objective is to obtain fusion. Because of the characteristics of silicon nitride, we believe that patient outcomes will dramatically improve, which is hugely important for the patient — but will also have an impact on the surgeon and hospital reimbursement.
Patients will have a bigger input in who their providers are and the level of reimbursement going forward.
Q: Silicon Nitride is at the cutting edge of the spine device market now. Where is your opportunity to disrupt and diversify in the future?
EO: Silicon nitride has a lot of capabilities because you can manufacture it to be rough or polished. We are in the process of submitting a 510(k) for a femoral head implant. You can also make silicon nitride very porous, so we are looking at a 510(k) product similar to trabecular metal.
There are a lot of companies interested in this material and they would like to use it for potential applications in sports medicine and dental implants. This is our patented technology and we have the capability to make an unlimited number of very productive products out of this material.
Q: How will silicon nitride impact the joint replacement market when it's up against traditional materials and implants?
EO: It will have an impact because it is a superior material that has improved wear characteristics. There is a big issue right now with total joint replacements — looking at metal-on-metal implants and wear debris they generate — and all companies want to reduce particulate debris associated with osteolysis. From a basic point of view, silicon nitride is the strongest ceramic that has been used commercially. We believe it is superior to others that are currently on the market.
Another benefit for silicon nitride is the improved imaging characteristics. If you look at some plastics, you can't see them on an X-ray and that's hard for the surgeon to perform intraoperative placement and postoperative review of the device. Some metal products have issues and you can't X-ray through it to see if you have a fusion and if the screws are placed correctly.
The other problem is with some metals you get a lot of scatter and it's hard to know what is going on. With silicon nitride, you have none of that — it's radiopaque enough for you to see through the material. You can see the joint line in total joint replacement and for fusion you can see the bone growing through it. That's a beneficial characteristic for this material.
Q: What is your strategic plan for success over the next few years?
EO: There are a lot of companies looking at co-development projects with Amedica so they can use this material for devices they want to create in the future. That is extremely positive, and 2012 has been a good year for Amedica. We now have definitive data that has been accepted in peer review journals and expanded our claims. Most importantly, we have been able to dramatically improve patient outcomes.
Learn more about Amedica.
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