18 Jul '13
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor
Vladimir Komlev, a young Russian scientist, is leading an interdisciplinary, interregional and inter-university effort aimed at developing and commercializing brand new bone cement, an advanced medical material that the developers hope will help thousands of patients with severe bone tissue pathologies. Its properties are believed to be exceptional enough to remedy practically all bone defects. The latest development caps Dr. Komlev’s prior work on a broad range of nanostructured ceramics for surgeries. To bring the sophisticated material to market the project partners and their high-profile backers like Russian nanotech giant Rusnano have established a start-up, a resident of the Skolkovo innovation hub since 2012.
According to the developers, the unique properties of the new bone cement will enable doctors to use the material as either glue or filler, thus addressing basically any problem associated with fractures or bone metastases.
To apply the material, X-ray and ultrasound equipment may be used to monitor the process and thereby minimize or eliminate the possibility of further surgeries and complications.
A project-specific company, BioNova, was set up this past summer to commercialize the invention and related bone treatment technologies. Last year it obtained residency status in Skolkovo, the government-sponsored innovation hub under construction just outside Moscow.
The collaborative team
The project has brought together research groups from Voronezh and Moscow majoring in areas as diverse as metallurgy and oncology.
Dr. Komlev works at Moscow’s A.A. Baikov Institute of Metallurgy and Material Science. Set up in 1939, the Institute is now part of the Russian Academy of Sciences focusing on metals, ores, fluxes, composites, and nanomaterials.
Another key player in the project is Voronezh State University located in the city of Voronezh some 320 miles south of Moscow. Originally set up by Emperor Alexander I as Derpt University (in present-day Tartu, Estonia) as far back as 1802 and then re-established by the Bolshevik government in Voronezh in 1918, the university now runs 18 departments, a business school, ten training, research and production centers and a number of MBA programs for an estimated 20,000 students.
The Moscow P.A. Gertzen Research Institute of Oncology has brought vast medical expertise into the multipartite effort. The Institute has been working on malignant tumor therapies since 1898, improving radiation therapies, developing laser and microsurgical self-grafting technologies for oncology, and perfecting diagnostics and rehabilitation methodologies.
The research teams have got influential backers, too. Russia’s largest nanotech company, Rusnano, and the Technology Transfer Center, a Novosibirsk-based project commercialization arm of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, have assisted the A.A. Baikov Institute of Metallurgy and Material Science in establishing BioNova, the start-up expected to take the new material out to Russian clinics.
Cementing a path to next generation medicine
The development of the new bone cement is said to have resulted from Dr. Komlev’s prior research into properties of synthetic ceramic materials ‘loaded up’ with stem cells and proteins. According to the scientist, when applied to a fracture, fragmentation area or other bone defect such materials help the natural bone regenerate and gradually get replaced by osseous tissue.
Dr. Komlev said last year that his team already had “specimens ready for market,” and claimed that “good preliminary results” had been achieved in testing, bringing the nanostructured ceramics to the attention of traumatic surgeons, dentists, and oncologists. Painstaking research still goes on.
With the sophisticated bone cement hopefully hitting the medical market a whole new dimension may open up in modern Russian medicine through the combined use of the nanostructured ceramics and the cement. With the unique properties of both materials traumatic surgeons may expect to remedy all damaged bone tissues, including cranial bones. For cancer specialists, it could provide an efficient tool for neoplasm-afflicted bone replacement—a way of dramatically improving a patient’s quality of life. Whether it’s oncology or traumatic surgery, the new invention is expected to considerably reduce the time of post-surgery rehabilitation.