Around the world, more than 250 million people suffer from osteoporosis, a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. The most common treatment for the condition are medications, however, there are two drawbacks associated with them. They act on all bones of the body and benefits are only visible 12 months after treatment begins.
Dr. Ulrike Kettenberger and fellow EPFL scientists have come up with a novel compound called Flowbone to address this problem. Their solution is a highly injectable biomaterial that rapidly strengthens bone through a breakthrough technology called “local bone seeding.” “We developed a biomaterial in the form of a gel that contains a hyaluronic acid matrix, calcium phosphate particles and a tiny dose of a bisphosphonate,” says Dr. Ulrike Kettenberger. She adds: “It could serve as a minimally invasive treatment to help avoid systemic secondary effects. The local bone structure would show a marked improvement three or four months after the injection, and the effect would last around three years.”
The biomaterial is injected into the hip bone in a very simple, ambulatory procedure and induces a deposition of the body’s own minerals, leading to an in-situ scaffold formation and the promotion of bone growth. Newly formed bone rapidly strengthens the old bone and leads to a significant decrease in the fracture risk. The local-bone-seeding technology is the result of six years of research and development at the Laboratory of Biomechanical Orthopedics at EPF Lausanne. The technology is currently in the pre-clinical phase preparing for clinical trials prior to market commercialization. Product availability for patients is expected for 2026.
In July 2020, Dr. Ulrike Kettenberger, Dr. Régis Gauderon, and Prof. Dominique Pioletti founded the company Flowbone in order to commercialize the novel treatment. Four months later, they were one of the three winners of the second round of the EIT Health Headstart programme, winning €50,000 grant. The latest addition to their funding capital is CHF 150,000 from Venture Kick, aimed at setting up the production facilities and growing the core team.
Congratulations to the team!