Grant Helps Speed Availability of Better Surgical Implant Material

Achievement date: 

Promising research on an alloy that has twice the strength of commercially available orthopedic implants is advancing to the marketplace, thanks to a $200,000 Small Business/ERC Collaborative Opportunity (SECO) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Research partners include nanoMAG LLC, in Livonia, MI; the Universities of Michigan (UM) and Pittsburgh; and the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (RMB), headquartered at North Carolina A&T University (NCAT).


RMB conducts collaborative research to transform current medical and surgical solutions by creating "smart" implants, offering improved treatments for orthopedic, craniofacial, neural, and cardiovascular conditions. Along with RMB support, the SECO grant is enabling the nanoMAG company, a member of the RMB’s Industrial Advisory Board, to get its new bioabsorbable alloy¾BioMg 250¾out of the laboratory and into the surgical suite. “This new class of materials could be a disruptive game changer for orthopedic surgery,” say UM team leaders Steven Goldstein, emeritus professor and former Research Dean of the Medical School, and Ken Kozloff, associate professor of Orthopedic Surgery.


Every year, millions of patients require surgical implants, typically made of nonabsorbable titanium or stainless steel, that require painful and costly second surgeries to remove. Implants made of bioabsorbable polymers can be absorbed by the body once they have served their purpose, but those that are currently available are not always strong enough to retain the bone geometries surgeons design and set. The current annual market for implants exceeds $4 billion, and the costs of secondary operations exceed $500 million. nanoMAG’s BioMg 250 is made of magnesium alloyed with small amounts of elements (zinc, calcium, and manganese) that are naturally found in the body and are essential nutrients in stimulating new bone growth. nanoMAG‘s early research was supported by NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant funds.