Hackensack Meridian Health has invested in EpiBone, Inc., a biotechnology company targeting the growth of personalized bone and cartilage grafts using stem cell technologies and 3D imaging and designs.
This investment in a clinical-stage regenerative medicine company is Hackensack Meridian Health’s fourth through the Bear’s Den, the health network’s successful innovation program.
“Our industry is going to be transformed by how we leverage cellular biology and new tissue engineering to help the body repair itself, and replace damaged tissue from the impact of chronic and disabling diseases,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, the chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “Our goal is to back innovative evidence-based approaches and products. We are confident in the science, and solutions, EpiBone brings to the market.”
“We are proud of our work, and are excited to be working more closely with Hackensack Meridian Health,” said Nina Tandon, Ph.D., MBA, the CEO and co-founder of EpiBone. “Our goal is to harness the power of regenerative medicine to help as many patients as possible, and having help from a world-class hospital system like Hackensack Meridian Health will only serve to expedite our work.”
EpiBone’s Craniomaxillofacial, or EB-CMF, product is being tested in its first trials as a treatment for ramus continuity defects in the mandible (jaw). The company was granted Investigational New Drug clearance to proceed with a Phase I/II clinical trial of the product last May.
EB-CMF is a living, anatomically correct bone graft made from a patient’s own fat-derived stem cells. First, a CT scan of the patient’s defect area leads to the creation of a bone scaffold. The patient’s fat tissue is then extracted, from which stem cells are isolated, and expanded. The resulting cells are then seeded onto the scaffold within a bioreactor, where they are subjected to warmth, pressure, and a steady flow of nutrients – all of which coaxes the stem cells to differentiate into osteoblasts, cells that begin to lay down new bone matrix. Once the graft has had a chance to mature in the bioreactor, it is then implanted into the patient’s body, where it naturally integrates with the native bone.
Pain, surgical and hospital time can all be potentially reduced when compared to other surgical options.
With EpiBone’s proprietary methods of creating a bespoke bone graft, bone missing because of genetic defects, traumatic injury, or lost through illness can be replaced.
“I was trained to replace like with like, bone with bone. To be able to accomplish that task with the patient’s own bone without harvesting and shaping it would be ideal,” said Robert Morin, M.D., a specialist in plastic and reconstructive surgery at Hackensack Meridian Health. “Technology such as EpiBone’s is tremendously exciting and will radically redefine approaches to procedures and treatments in the future.”
“The Bear’s Den program continues to invest in exciting companies at the vanguard of medicine,” said David Perlin, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief scientific officer of the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI). “This kind of transformative health venture is what we envisioned when we started planning for the CDI’s Institute for Restorative Health.”
EpiBone is also exploring using the same technology to replace cartilage, and treat osteochondral injuries, among other applications.
Launched in 2017, Bear’s Den features a panel of experts, including Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Robert C. Garrett, leading physicians, key network executives, venture capitalists, patent attorneys, who gather regularly to vet proposals from entrepreneurs. The health network’s novel incubator has vetted many products and strategies to streamline care delivery, reduce infections, lower hospital readmissions and help patients partner in their care with physicians.
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