Improving medical care and saving lives with bioactive thin-film coatings

Researchers at Pacific Northwest Na-tional Laboratory (PNNL) developed the first-ever water-based process that al-lows calcium-phosphate thin-film coat-ings containing controlled-release bioac-tive therapeutic agents to be deposited on orthopedic devices and other medical implants, such as catheters and stents. Benefits to the 750,000 implant recipients each year are twofold: 1) the antimicro-bial agent in the coating has been proven in tests to kill bacteria or greatly inhibit its growth in the body, helping to prevent dangerous and costly post-surgical infec-tions, and 2) the water-based deposition process coupled with the bioactive anti-microbial agent provides an advanced method for applying thin films containing calcium-phosphate coatings—a natural component of bone—to artificial joints, allowing for enhanced bone bonding and helping to avoid rejection of the implant by the body. The thin-film technology received two patents in the late 1990s, and subsequent animal testing by U.S. Army orthopedic surgeons provided PNNL researcher Dr. Allison Campbell and Commercialization Manager Dr. Eric Jurrus with the preclinical data needed to market the technology to medical device companies. The marketing-to-licensing process encompassed four years of in-tense effort, dedication, and overcoming obstacles. PNNL ultimately forged a rela-tionship with Bacterin, a medical device testing laboratory for medical implant manufacturers. The technology was li-censed in 2004 by Bacterin, which has since made Fortune magazine’s top 25 breakout companies in 2005. Bacterin recently joined forces with the Department of Defense, receiving a $1.4-million appropriation to coat metal rods and pins with the technology for use in the battlefield. In addition, Bacterin has forged new relationships with three medical device manufacturers—Baxter International, C.R. Bard, and Cook—who have agreed to use the unique coating on their products. Bacterin expects its revenues to rise by $16 million this year, according to Fortune. Bacterin began production of the technology in 2005 with a handful of coated medical devices now ready for manufacture. This technology will play a major role in dramati-cally reducing post-surgi-cal infections in implant recipients and wounded military personnel, and will greatly increase accep-tance of artificial joints by the body. Preventing these infections promises billions of dollars of savings to patients and the U.S. government in fol-lowup medical care. In ad-dition, significant cost sav-ings and reduced environmental impact will be realized in the manufacturing pro-cess, as the simplified water-based de-position process does not require use of multi-million dollar instruments and uses very few hazardous materials.
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