Last week we learned about a new cartilage repair company, Boston-based Hyalex Orthopaedics, who raised $16 million in a Series A. The round was led by Canaan Partners, who were joined by Osage University Partners and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Funds will be used to support development of the company’s Hyalex synethetic biomaterial, a polymer licensed from Stanford University that has “properties that mimic the structure and function of the hyaline cartilage” found in articulating joints such as the hip, knee, shoulder and ankle. The press release says that successful development of Hyalex may help the millions of patients suffering from osteoarthritis avoid or delay joint replacement surgery.
Cartilage repair remains a true unmet need, as once the body’s articular cartilage degenerates, it can’t be restored on its own. A number of companies have preceded Hyalex in the quest for a solution, including Histogenics, which embeds autologous cartilage cells in a collagen scaffold intended to be placed in the knee, and BioSyntech, which developed the BST-CarGel scaffold for the knee that was sold first to Piramal and more recently to Smith & Nephew. Neither of these products have been approved for sale in the U.S. market. In December 2016, Vericel received FDA approval for the MACI, which loads autologous cultured chondrocytes on a porcine collagen membrane; this was the first U.S. approval for a product of this type. Vericel also markets Carticel, an FDA-approved biologic where autologous chondrocytes are cultured and then implanted into the patient’s knee cartilage defect. This technology is said to create a hyaline-like cartilage repair tissue.
Hyalex says what makes their product unique is that the material “offers the ability to maintain an extremely low wear profile even at high loads,” making the material suitable for use in highly weight-bearing joints, like the hip and knee. Lampros Kourtis, Ph.D., Hyalex’s co-founder and chief technology officer, adds, “Our vision is to leverage Hyalex’s unique mechanical, friction and wear properties to replace arthritic cartilage while sparing healthy bone.”
In conjunction with their financing, Hyalex also announced the appointment of several key leadership roles at the company. Mira Sahney was appointed president and CEO, joining Hyalex from her role as senior vice president and general manager at Smith & Nephew. Wende Hutton, general partner for Canaan Partners, Bill Harrington, managing partner of Osage University Partners and Renee Ryan, vice president, venture investments at Johnson & Johnson Innovation will join Hyalex’s board of directors.