AURORA, Colo.—A liquid crystal elastomer producer with applications in the biomedical field and a medical device company focused on joint fusion and fracture fixation in the foot and ankle have received a $250,000 grant to develop a joint replacement device.
Aurora-based Impressio will collaborate with Atlanta-based MedShape Inc., using the research and development money from the National Science Foundation that was issued through the Small Business Innovation Research Program, according to MedShape.
Together, the companies look to develop a new surgical treatment for hallux rigidus, an arthritic disorder of the metatarsalphalangeal joint located at the base of the big toe. The mission is to create an arthroplasty device (MedShape's expertise) that uses the energy-absorbing LCE produced by Impressio to combat the disorder, the companies said in a July 28 news release.
"NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering," said Andrea Belz, director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. "With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs."
According to MedShape, between two and three million people develop hallux rigidus. The potential device would mimic the function of native cartilage in the MTP joint while reducing wear. The results could have other uses in treating other joints in the foot, hand and knee, according to the companies.
Impressio also uses its LCE for energy absorption in the sports and recreational industries, working to develop helmet liners that reduce impacts to the head.
"We believe our innovative material can improve human life from head to toe," said Amir Torbati, CSO and co-founder of Impressio. "After receiving this NSF SBIR Phase I award, we will be focusing on the MTP joint as our first entry point into the body. Once we successfully prove that our technology works in joint replacements, we will start focusing on knee and spine implants."
According to the NSF, after a small business earns a Phase I grant, it can apply for a second grant worth up to $1 million. Businesses then are eligible to receive an additional $500,000 in matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.
"Being vetted by the NSF is a great confirmation of our technology, but our team has been even more impressed with the NSF resources such as the I-Corps program that gave us an opportunity to gain valuable understanding of the medical device space," said Christopher Yakacki, CEO and co-founder of Impressio.
According to Impressio, the company's LCEs absorb energy and dissipate it, technology that also has applications in the automotive and aerospace industries for its vibration isolation properties.
MedShape is a privately-held medical device company developing and commercializing medical devices that use patented, advanced materials used in foot and ankle surgeries.