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OrthoData Raises $1.1M for Spinal Fusion Sensor Device

LOUISVILLE - A medical device company with a new way to help surgeons gauge the success of spinal fusion surgeries has just arrived in Northeast Ohio, and investors in the area have welcomed it with $1.1 million in fresh capital.

A recent transplant from Louisville, OrthoData Inc. is developing an implantable sensor that attaches? to a rod in a pedicle screw system put in place during a spinal fusion surgery.

Lumbar spinal fusions are done to relieve symptoms of many conditions, including degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis. And they're on the rise - one analysis estimated that the number of procedures more than doubled between 1998 and 2008.

Called IntelliRod, OrthoData's sensor monitors the load being placed on the rod to which it's attached, indicating to physicians the strength of the new bone that's growing. "By knowing that load and watching whether it's declining over time or not, it tells you the status of whether bone is growing across the disc space," CEO Ric Navarro said.

The idea came from Dr. Randy Puno, an orthopedic surgeon in Louisville, who sought a better way to evaluate how well the spine was healing in his patients. Typically, this is assessed with an X-ray and, several months after surgery, a CT scan. But images only provide a snapshot in time, and that's not always satisfactory for patients who are anxious to get back to work or play. It also exposes them to considerable amounts of radiation. And in rare cases, even those images aren't clear and exploratory surgery may be necessary.

To collect a measurement with IntelliRod, physicians hold a reader device up to the patient's back that collects data wirelessly from the sensor. "Once the strain in the rod drops and plateaus, then you know the bone is taking on most of the stress and the bone is healed," Puno said. "If we're able to send patients back to work early, then that's a pretty big economic positive."

In what CEO Ric Navarro said will likely be the first closing of OrthoData's round, eight investors including non-profit venture group JumpStart, Akron BioInvestments Funds and six individuals backed the company with $1.1 million.

Navarro said that money will be used to make some engineering tweaks to the device, prepare it for animal studies and conduct those studies, which he hopes to begin in nine to 12 months. He anticipates the company will need another $300,000 to $500,000 more in funding to complete the studies, and expects to close on additional investments within three to six months.

Founded in 2003 by a group of Louisville researchers and Puno, the company was moved to Ohio partly to take advantage of the state's hospital network, where Navarro said the company has already developed relationships. It's setting up shop outside of Cleveland in Akron.

Previous to this round, it's been funded by investments from Queen City Angels, Kentucky Seed Capital Fund, Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation and Commonwealth Seed Capital Fund.