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Leader of the pack
4:06pm Thursday 19th January 2012 in Innovation
Accentus Medical has experienced the challenges of many spin-out companies in Oxfordshire and emerged as a highly successful example of enterprise generated from research and development activity at the UK Atomic Energy Authority.
From its base at the Harwell Oxford campus, Accentus is now an established developer and manufacturing supplier of surface coatings to global manufacturers of implantable medical devices.
The company’s core business is focused on the supply of coatings for orthopaedic (joint reconstruction) implants, but the management team is pursuing an increasing number of opportunities to deploy its technologies in other surgical implant sectors, such as spine, dental and cardiac devices.
One of the major unresolved issues for all sectors of implant surgery is post-operative infection.
Despite improvements in surgical methods, device-related infection still occurs in a small but significant percentage of cases, with often costly consequences for healthcare providers and potentially serious clinical complications for patients.
For example, the cost to global healthcare providers of revision surgery to deal with infected hip implants alone is estimated at more than £3bn and implant manufacturers are actively seeking cost-effective preventive technology solutions to help reduce the incidence of infections. Accentus started up in response to this opportunity.
In 2002, Stanmore Implants Worldwide, a supplier of implants to the orthopaedic oncology market, challenged the Accentus Medical scientists to invent a process so biocidal silver ions could be stitched into the surface of a titanium implant.
These would need to gradually detach from the implant once it was inside a patient’s body to prevent bacterial colonisation of the implant surface.
The biocidal properties of silver are well known — for centuries the church has used silver chalices as a means of preventing the spread of infection.
But there had previously been no viable means of applying silver ions to the surface of a long-term titanium surgical implant.
The Accentus scientists came up trumps and after rigorous laboratory testing the process, Agluna, was applied to a Stanmore custom implant in March 2006.
To date, about 400 Agluna devices have been implanted and surgeons have witnessed a demonstrable reduction in infection rates.
From these auspicious beginnings, the company has succeeded in building a prestigious client list for its technology.
In 2010, Accentus signed a major licence and services agreement with Zimmer Holdings, which specialises in musculoskeletal care. Zimmer will use the Agluna anti-infective technology on a potentially broad range of products.
This represented a major step forward, giving us an excellent prospect of exploiting Agluna in international markets. Also, during the past two years, Accentus has completed the installation of a protoype Agluna manufacturing plant, following the award of a £330,000 grant from the Technology Strategy Board.
We are actively extending our commercialisation activities to extend Agluna into other market sectors beyond joint reconstruction, such as spine, dental and implantable cardiac devices housed in titanium casings.
Accentus Medical has several strings to its bow. It is also an established supplier of plasma-sprayed surface coatings known as Acusure to orthopaedic implant manufacturers in the UK and overseas.
Plasma spraying was historically developed within the UK Atomic Energy Authority to apply ceramic coatings for thermal management in nuclear reactor components.
Accentus inherited the plant and equipment and continues to spray hydroxyapatite (a bone substitute) and other metal powder coatings onto the surfaces of orthopaedic implants.
Over the past decade about 150,000 Acusure coated implants have been distributed internationally. Today, Accentus is at the forefront of implant coating technologies and the management team is delighted at the progress that has been made in securing a respected position in the global market place.
But implant development never stands still and one of the stimulating aspects of leading Accentus Medical is the constant challenge of developing and applying coating technologies to meet ever-changing customer demands and requirements.
With an enthusiastic management team and an appetite for continuous innovation we are well placed to continue to build on strong foundations and we are looking forward to strong growth over the coming years. ib * This page is co-ordinated by Oxford Innovation, www.oxin.co.uk