Written By: Drue De Angelis
While at AAOS, I sat down with Eric Olson from Amedica Corp. and Dr. Thomas Webster from Brown University.
Eric Olson is the newly appointed CEO and President of Amedica Corporation. Eric is a 20+ year veteran of the orthopedic implant industry with a concentration in Sales & Marketing. Eric has spent the last 10 plus years in various corporate roles after being in sales for the early part of his career. Eric has experience with VC-backed and private equity companies, having previously worked with Facet Solutions, Axial Biotech and Sorenson Medical. In 2011, he was recruited to Amedica, Eric was then promoted to the President of Amedica’s Spine Division in December; and most recently, he was named CEO & President of the whole organization.
We sat down at AAOS to find out what is new and exciting at Amedica. With all the challenges in the spine space, I asked Eric what Amedica is going to do differently to be successful.
Drue: “What do you feel has held Amedica back until now?”
Eric: “Our biggest challenge has to be a lack of focus. We tried to be all things to all people, and that never works out. I think that we are on the right track now because we’ve eliminated a lot of the clutter and are focusing on what delivers a profound patient benefit.”
Drue: “As crowded as the spine market is, what will you do differently or better than the competition?”
Eric: “What sets Amedica apart from all the other spine companies is that we are changing the standard of care in biomaterials by offering the market a vastly superior material called Silicon Nitride (Si3N4) that we expect will receive expanded claims enabling us to demonstrate added benefits over PEEK and Titanium. We’ve already received 510(k) clearance on the material and design of our devices; we believe one differentiator will be that the material will provide improved outcomes for the patient. We plan to launch the first complete Universal Interbody System with one set of instrumentation so that a surgeon can decide intra-operatively which material will provide the maximum benefit to the patient while offering economic benefit to the healthcare system. We also believe we will offer a benefit to the healthcare system by providing a comprehensive, universal interbody system.”
Drue: “How can a material do that compared to the “gold standard” PEEK Optima?”
Eric: “We recognize that PEEK has the majority share of the market. However, Silicon Nitride has competitive advantages for surgeons and their patients. Studies have shown that Si3N4 has the ability to reduce bacterial colonization, function and growth while facilitating bony on-growth which may offer a better environment for fusion. We’ve already seen the preliminary results; now our next step is to work with the FDA to obtain clearance for these expanded claims so we can promote these additional benefits.”
Dr. Webster: “We have done extensive research on Si3N4 and found tremendous patient benefits solely based upon the material composition. We compared PEEK to Titanium and then to Si3N4 in a laboratory. The in vivo studies have shown very good, stable integration which is 10X better, and also we have seen a 10X increase in infection resistance. In our animal studies, we have used no antibiotics, which can inhibit bone healing, and we found Si3N4 to be far better as a material.”
Drue: “What makes Si3N4 more resistant to infection?”
Dr. Webster: “We have found that Si3N4 is much more hydrophilic/wettable and promotes the adsorption of proteins that inhibit bacterial infection. This is really the interesting part. If you combine failed fusion rates with the incidence of infection, you have a very significant rate of complication with both PEEK and Titanium. Silicon Nitride has shown a previously unseen resistance to infection as well as a resistance to the membranous tissue that is commonly observed forming on the surface of PEEK. We expect this to translate into higher rates of fusion and lower rates of infection, both greatly needed in spine surgery.”
Eric: “We believe that as healthcare cost-containment pressures increase, providers will continue to pursue ways to reduce costs while improving outcomes.. We believe we have a solution that will support this effort.”
Drue: “Since much of your future rides on this Si3N4 material, what is your IP protection like?”
Eric: “We have Si3N4 patented for the majority of medical applications in the human body.”
Drue: “Where else do you see an added benefit for applying the Si3N4 material?”
Eric: “We see making strides in the total joint market as the next frontier and later dental will be a natural fit. We also see applications in the extremities as well.”
Drue: “With Invibio owning the PEEK market, how do you intend to unseat them as the gold standard?”
Eric: “We believe that Si3N4 is ideally suited for those indications where you need a fusion and where the patient would benefit from an implant that promotes bone healing and minimizes the risk of infection, and thus will ultimately unseat PEEK as the gold standard.”