Johnson & Johnson has acquired a manufacturer of 3D-printed titanium interbody implants for use in minimally-invasive and open spinal fusion surgery, the company announced Wednesday.
The acquired company, Emerging Implant Technologies (EIT), has developed a way to print porous titanium cages in shapes and sizes tailored to the anatomy of the spine.
J&J’s takeover of EIT bolsters its DePuy Synthes interbody implant portfolio while heading off a potential threat to its existing polyetheretherketone (PEEK) business.
Spinal fusion is a procedure designed to address back problems through the fusion of two or more vertebrae into a single bone. Some studies suggest the implant-enabled procedure provides relief to people with spinal problems who failed physical therapy and medicines, but it has shortcomings. Bone fusion fails to happen in some patients and many more continue to suffer pain.
Medical device developers have sought to address these shortcomings, leading to the proliferation of implants made of materials such as PEEK and titanium. However, none of the devices has solved all the problems faced by physicians and the patients they treat.
EIT responded to the challenge with a way to 3D print titanium. The technique uses a laser to melt titanium powder. By repeating this process, layers of titanium build up on each other until a structure is formed. EIT claims the approach enables it to create structures that cannot be produced using conventional manufacturing, making the implants a better fit for the anatomy of the spine.
Evidence to support EIT’s claims comes from a single-arm clinical trial in 50 people who underwent anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. EIT compared the range of motion achieved by the patients favorably to data from a study of people treated with PEEK implants. However, clinical outcomes were comparable in both trials.
Even so, J&J has seen enough potential in EIT’s devices to acquire the company for an undisclosed sum. J&J’s DePuy Synthes business will promote the implants globally alongside its other orthopedic devices.
The acquisition follows a busy 12 months for EIT. Late last year, EIT presented preliminary data from the aforementioned clinical trial, struck a deal with HCA to expand access to its devices in the U.S. and shared details of the first uses of its implants in North America. Since then, EIT has gained regulatory clearances for 3D printed cages in the U.S. and Europe and posted updated clinical trial data.