Zoan BioMed partners with University of Galway to test coral for bone grafts

A coral colony growing in Zoan BioMed’s coral nursery facility in Co. Galway

Researchers at University of Galway have joined forces with a local medtech company to study coral and its potential to revolutionise the treatment of bone injuries.

Originally a Connemara-based start-up, Zoan BioMed, uses Irish grown tropical coral to make a splash in the world of orthobiologic scaffolds.

The University of Galway is now collaborating with the company to design a new way of tracking and measuring the formation of bone in a laboratory.

The researchers on the project aim to test the potential of coral scaffolds to treat people with bone injuries or other damage.

The project is funded by Zoan BioMed and Enterprise Ireland through the Innovation Partnership scheme.

The ambition of enabling the aging population a pain-free lifestyle fuels the development of this $54 billion global market, including the bone grafting sector

Zoan BioMed sustainably grow tropical coral, in their cutting-edge facility in Galway.

Coral shares many chemical and physical properties with bone, making for an excellent bone substitute.

The partnership with University of Galway will speed up the evaluation of new scaffolds for Zoan BioMed, and for the orthopaedics industry more widely.


Eliminating animal testing

These new methods are also important in the phasing out of animal testing for new medical devices.

Dr Martin Johnson, head of Research and Development and product development at Zoan BioMed, is excited about the opportunities this project provides.

He said: “Creating enhanced laboratory screening methods at University of Galway will help to eliminate or substantially reduce […] animal testing through reliable predictive capability in the laboratory.  This will revolutionise orthopaedic material development in the coming decade.

“With the abundance of small and large orthopaedic companies throughout the country, Ireland is uniquely placed to launch high-quality products into this market, bettering the health of the world-wide population.“


Further development of medical applications

Dr Cynthia Coleman, a cellular manufacturing and therapy expert at the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at University of Galway, is an expert in using cells to make bone in the laboratory. Her research focuses on using these cells to understand the biologic pathways underpinning bone formation.

Dr Coleman explained: “Collaborating with Zoan BioMed means that we can create new ways of working to advance both research into bone health and regeneration, and help speed the development of orthopaedic devices into the clinic.”

Stephen Wann, Chief Executive Officer of Zoan BioMed, claimed: “Further medical applications are in development, in particular using novel combinatorial scaffolds, containing coral and other materials mixed together. These combined scaffolds could be 3D printed to create a particular shape, or to perfectly fit into a patient’s injury.

“The cost and time delays associated with current methods of evaluating how well cells can attach to and survive on scaffolds and make bone, means the development of orthopaedic products from coral or other biomaterials is slow.”


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