Manchester team wins award for developing cruciate ligament device

4 July 2011

A group of clinicians, technology specialists and research and development managers from Manchester have been awarded the 2011 PraxisUnico Collaborative Impact Award for their exceptional team work. They developed GraftBolt, a novel anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) fixation device.

The award recognises collaborative projects that leverage the intellectual assets of the research base of more than one partner. In the case of GraftBolt, the product was developed from an initial sketch into an implantable device as a result of collaboration between an NHS hospital, a university and its agent for commercialisation (UMIP), a company and an NHS Innovation Hub.

The original concept came from an NHS surgeon at University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust who recognised the clinical need and sought advice, expertise and funding from University of Manchester and TrusTECH, the North West NHS Innovation Hub. This funding was used to continue the initial development, feasibility work and testing and to file a patent to protect the intellectual property. TrusTECH then negotiated a licence with US orthopaedic device company, Arthrex Inc, to develop the device into a commercially viable product.

Dr Joanne Thomas, Senior Technology Manager, TrusTECH said: “The development of GraftBolt is an excellent example of how a clinician, academics, a company and an NHS Innovation Hub can work together to develop a new product. The success was due to: good team communication; a robust patent; and a highly motivated commercial partner with excellent market knowledge. It is great to see the product now on sale, improving healthcare and generating royalties for the NHS Trust and the university.”

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the back of the knee stabilises the knee joint. ACL injury affects 1 in 3500 people, with about 200,000 injuries in the US per year. It is commonly repaired using the patient’s own hamstring tendons to form a quadruple graft that is secured in the tibia (shin bone) and femur (upper leg bone).

The NHS performs around 11,000 ACL reconstructions per year. ACL reconstruction is not universally successful, with failure rates of 5-25% often resulting in further surgery and long term problems. The main cause of this is loss of graft fixation within the tibia in the early post-operative period.

GraftBolt aims to improve the patient’s quality of life by successfully repairing their injury first time and improving the quality of bonding of the graft to the bone, which speeds up the healing of the graft implant and hence improves the patient’s rehabilitation.

The product has a higher ‘pullout strength’ than the main competing product and therefore improves healthcare provision by increasing the reliability of the ACL reconstruction leading to fewer hospital readmissions for ACL reconstruction failure, which could lead to a cost saving to the NHS and other healthcare providers.

An ACL revision operation in the NHS costs £3,000-£3,500, and sometimes two operations are required. Thus, use of GraftBolt could save up to £6,000 per ACL reconstruction prevented.


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