Support of life science start-up has life-changing impact

Ashleigh Chatel

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Making medical procedures safer, more efficient through skeletal technologies

Starting a business during the height of the country’s last recession was no easy feat, especially for a medical device start-up. Nevertheless, one company did just that and nearly 10 years later has seen their hard work and commitment pay off.

Plymouth-based Tissue Regeneration Systems (TRS) formed in 2008 based on research and technologies licensed out of the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin. TRS has two core technologies: 3-D printed bioresorbable scaffolds for bone repair and its Affinity™ coating, designed to help implants assimilate better into the body, reducing complications and accelerating healing.

“Founding the company during a tough economic time, we learned almost immediately that we needed to have a lean and low capital business model,” said Jim Fitzsimmons, who joined the company as CEO in 2010 following 30 years of experience in the medical device industry. 

“We knew it would be challenging to build a fully commercial company, so we made strategic decisions to help us grow,” he said. “We are grateful for the support from MEDC and MLSIC (Michigan Life Science Innovation Center), and strengthened by our partnership with the JJIC (Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center).”

TRS is targeting five distinct markets, including craniomaxillofacial (CMF) surgery, orthopedic surgery, spine fusion surgery, dental implant surgery, and bone growth factor delivery. Their technologies have demonstrated an ability to truly cause a paradigm shift in the world of skeletal reconstruction.

“Tissue Regeneration System is another great example of how Michigan’s continued support of life sciences can lead to life-changing innovations,” said MEDC Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fred Molnar. “MLSIC is home to a number of great companies, like TRS. We appreciate the opportunity to support such companies and are proud of how well they represent our state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

As many life science companies can attest, it can be a timely and costly process to transfer university research into a marketable product or business. For nearly 10 years, TRS has continued to strengthen and evolve its business through the help of numerous statewide and national resources, including the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Venture Investors, the Michigan Accelerator Fund I and University of Michigan.

With many science-based startups, it takes the combination of strategic vision, experienced business leaders and the brains behind the technologies to create a successful business. In addition to its original founders, TRS added several key experienced executives to its team early on in the process 

Taking a less traditional approach, TRS’ success has been through strategic partnerships developed with well-established companies in the field. Through partnerships like the one with JJIC, TRS is able to continue to perfect its technologies. Instead of taking the commercial company approach – developing and marketing its own products – TRS applies its technologies to co-develop products of interest to established medical, dental and 3D printing companies. Once cleared by the FDA, the partner commercializes the product and TRS serves as the manufacturer.

TRS is focused on adding new and unique properties to its Affinity coating technology to broaden market applications. The company will leverage this innovation to establish a comprehensive corporate partnership around this technology.

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