Connecticut-based medical device company Woven Orthopedic Technologies designs innovative orthopedic solutions for patients undergoing procedures that use orthopedic screws. The company bought the initial intellectual property from a Colorado-based surgeon and teamed with experts with orthopedic industry and startup experience to launch in 2013.
Woven Orthopedic Technologies Co-Founder and President Brandon Bendes talked to MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about the company’s evolution and future plans.
NAN PRICE: Why locate the business in Connecticut?
BRANDON BENDES: When we were deciding where to locate the business, we considered the entire 1-95 corridor—New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. We also considered Pennsylvania. We decided on Connecticut and the reason we chose Manchester is twofold.
First, it’s the “Silk City.” This area of Connecticut used to be well known for its textile industry. Second, there seemed to be a collaborative energy in the area.
As an entrepreneur, you like to see people and organizations building and improving things. We were getting a positive vibe from everyone we met in Connecticut that the state was focused on building an ecosystem. So, we thought: If we’re trying to build a business and build a network, let’s do it here in Manchester.
NAN: Tell us a little about your product and what makes it innovative.
BRANDON: In orthopedics, most products aren’t very simple to use. We developed a simple, affordable technology, similar to a wall anchor you’d use to secure screws in a wall, only we created it for orthopedic surgery. Our Ogmend Implant Enhancement System enhances screw fixation by focusing on the screw-to-bone interface. What’s great is surgeons use it in conjunction with the screw systems they’re already using.
NAN: Are there similar products like this on the market?
BRANDON: Surgeons can use several techniques to get better fixation but there aren’t many products specifically designed to do so. We focus on improving the interface between the screws and bone because that is the underlying location for where weaknesses occur. There really isn’t a product or a technique like ours on the market. Certainly not one that is as simple, cost efficient, or widely applicable as ours.
NAN: Tell us a little bit about the process of manufacturing the product.
BRANDON: Our product is manufactured in Connecticut. We’ve created relationships through the ecosystem and developed partnerships with a couple of local businesses to make the product. It seems like a simple product but it was a little complicated and took a few years to figure out how to combine different elements to get it to work as well as we wanted it to.
NAN: And then there’s an approval process.
BRANDON: Absolutely. Only four orthopedic companies have ever received de novo clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Woven Orthopedics was the third.
NAN: Aside from manufacturing and approval, what other challenges have you encountered with this startup?
BRANDON: The biggest challenge in a startup is focus. It’s important to dedicate resources to very specific tasks and avoid trying to capture every opportunity available. That’s extremely important for overall company success and especially for managing a budget. As a medical startup, it takes a lot of up-front capital to develop and usher a product through regulatory approvals before you can generate revenue. It’s very important to raise enough funds to accomplish the goals but still generate a great return for your investors.
Thankfully, this isn’t our first rodeo. My co-founders and I have been building businesses for many years prior to starting this company. Many of us have also worked together before. It helps to have the experience so that we can appropriately balancing everything.
Back in 2013 when we started the business, we had a certain funding estimate we thought it would take to fund the life of the company. And here we are six years later and we’re pretty much on target.
Another challenge was getting the right balance between the product design and the manufacturing to make it work. It took two years to build the product. The concept is simple, but it took several iterations achieve the profile we wanted.
NAN: How else has the company evolved since its launch?
BRANDON: A lot has happened. We took the concept as an idea on paper a developed the product entirely. We designed the product, tested it rigorously in the lab and in animals, then conducted a two-year clinical study, received approval in Europe, began commercial introduction in a few countries internationally, and most recently received FDA clearance for use in the United States.
It’s never a straight path, so we’ve been very fortunate with the progress we’ve made thus far. However, there’s still plenty more to be done. The good news is that this past week, we won an award from the most widely viewed orthopedics publication for Best New Spine Technology, so hopefully that means we’re doing something right!
NAN: Do you envision creating additional products in the future?
BRANDON: Yes. We’ve already started the next set of development work and the first thing we’re focused on is expanding our indications and product sizes. We’ll also look to expand into similar focus areas but that will occur after we get the current product into the U.S. market.