Three Research Centres in USA, Ireland and Northern Ireland Announce R&D Partnership to Develop New Device for Bone Frac

Pictured at the Science Foundation Ireland's Science Rising Summit held at Croke Park, Dublin announcing new International Partnership Awards between US, Ireland and Northern Ireland was Valentin Bertsch, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Brian Meenan, NIBEC (Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC), Ulster University, Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway, Mark Ferguson, Director General SFI, Dr France Córdova, Director, NSF and Jagannathan Sankar, RMB, Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials. (Picture: Jason Clarke)
Nov 14 2016 Posted: 16:31 GMT
  • CÚRAM at NUI Galway, NIBEC at Ulster University and the NSF-ERC for Revolutionising Metallic Biomaterials in the USA to join forces.
  • Tripartite partnership announced under Science Foundation Ireland’s innovative Centre to Centre programme.

A unique grouping of research centres from the US, Ireland and Northern Ireland have formed a €1.5 million Centre-to-Centre collaborative partnership to develop a novel system to help bone fractures heal.

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, the National Science Foundation-ERC for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (RMB) in the USA, and the Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC) at Ulster University have come together under the US-Ireland R&D programme. The announcement was made today by Science Foundation Ireland as part of its Centre-to-Centre Programme.

Almost €500,000 has been awarded to CÚRAM, a Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre based at NUI Galway to carry out its role in the partnership. The intention is to develop novel magnesium alloys that can provide the mechanical integrity required to support bone fracture healing in patients, before being fully resorbed by the body.

Current orthopaedic implants are fabricated from metals such as titanium or stainless steel.  Such implants are permanent (non-biodegradable), therefore a secondary surgery is frequently required to remove implants following bone fracture healing, especially in cases of high energy trauma such as traffic accidents and sports injuries.

In contrast, magnesium alloys are biodegradable and, over a controlled time period, will undergo complete resorption in the body. Such biodegradability, coupled with the potential of magnesium to promote bone regeneration, offers a significant advantage over current orthopaedic implant technologies.

Researchers from CÚRAM, RMB and NIBEC will work together to develop next-generation magnesium orthopaedic implants. Key challenges involve the achievement of biodegradation time-scales that precisely control the reduction the mechanical support provided by the implant during the fracture healing process. Novel experimental tests and computer models will be developed to optimise the functionality of a number of fracture fixation devices.

According to Dr Patrick McGarry, Lead Investigator for CÚRAM: “The Centre-to-Centre programme aims to establish a new generation of orthopaedic implants fabricated from biodegradable magnesium alloys.  We will develop cutting-edge computer modelling techniques to simulate the performance of such implants in the body, leading to the identification of optimal design configurations and direct opportunities for delivery of clinical benefits.”

“The partnership will promote a culture of entrepreneurship that supports creative and innovative engineers and provides valuable opportunities for researcher participation from undergraduate to post-doctoral level in the area of medical device design” explains Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM.  “It will also facilitate global economic and healthcare development through an innovative ecosystem, which will broaden the scope of technologies to treat disease.”

The partnership will also foster a culture of innovation in bioengineering research and education; providing for entrepreneurship and economic development that will help the USA, ROI and NI to succeed in a global economy by directly engaging small innovative firms, industries and practitioners and technology transfer officers. The partnership is supported by industrial partners OrthoKinetic Technologies LLC and Fort Wayne Metals.

Professor Brian Meenan and Drs Adrian Boyd and Patrick Lemoine at NIBEC, Ulster University, have been awarded £300,000 from the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland to enable their contributions to the Centre-to-Centre project.  According to Professor Meenan: “This exciting international collaboration provides a critical mass of research expertise capable of realising the potential of a new generation of orthopaedic implant devices that require a single surgical intervention. By enhancing key properties of magnesium alloy implant devices we will be able to control their resorption in a way that provides for improved clinical outcomes in previously difficult to manage factures.”

Professor Jag Sankar, Director-NSF ERC for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials said: “This tripartite partnership creates a unique convergence of world-leading expertise from academia and industry in the fields of materials processing, surface characterization, and computational modeling with the shared goal of developing bioresorbable magnesium (Mg) alloy systems for orthopedic implant devices.  We are visioning to prepare the next-generation workforce in the global knowledge economy via study abroad opportunities and as well as transatlantic offerings of seminars and lectures. ”

The goal of the Centre-to-Centre Programme is perfectly aligned with the overall vision of all three research Centres involved. RMB focuses on the development of transformational therapies through materials and sensing innovations; CÚRAM aims to develop affordable, innovative and transformative device-based solutions to treat global chronic diseases; and NIBEC combine skills in engineering, science and medicine in order to enhance the development of devices and systems which have applications in health care.

This collaboration will also allow graduate students and post-doctoral researchers from RMB, CÚRAM and NIBEC to interact across both institutional and discipline boundaries in terms of the collaborative research tasks and will encourage cross-centre participation in specialized graduate-level modules and seminars.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland welcomed the announcement saying: “The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres combine world-class scientific research with deep and significant enterprise engagement, excellence and impact. The opportunity to combine the expertise within our Research Centres with those in the United States and Northern Ireland will greatly enhance the research performed. These new collaborations will result in innovative discoveries and advances relating to renewable energy, new memory cells for electronic devices and biodegradable orthopaedic devices.”

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