Showcasing South African innovation


While South Africa faces a distinct set of challenges in effectively managing its healthcare sector, the ecosystem for innovation, particularly in the world of biotechnology remains fruitful. Bioentrepreneur Nick Duneas has taken the initiative to create his own startup and introduce the world’s first regenerating injectable bone-graph substitute into the market.

Although only the second largest economy on the continent, South Africa boasts the most sophisticated and productive research environment in Sub-Sahara Africa, according to KPMG’s latest African life sciences sector report. The rainbow nation has been leading the continent with respect to innovative capacity and research output—yielding extraordinary advancements in the field of medicine and biotechnology. One South African company in particular, Altis Biologics, is truly revolutionizing the state of orthobiologics with its groundbreaking product—the Altis Osteogenic Bone Matrix (OBM)—the first regenerating injectable bone graph substitute on the market.

Perhaps as a testament to the company’s trailblazing efforts, Altis Biologics was recently awarded the Innovation Prize for Africa in 2014, a competition attracting 700 applicants spanning 42 countries that promotes technological breakthroughs and helps fuel the continent’s innovation ecosystem across key sectors.

“The amount of exposure we’ve received as a result of this competition has been truly tremendous,” comments the founder and owner of Altis Biologics Nick Duneas. “The USD 100,000 prize money is just a token, and pales in comparison to the value of exposure, prestige, and credibility that we’ve received—imperative factors for raising additional rounds of funding. In fact, one of our backers, the Technology Innovation Agency was so delighted and impressed with one of their grantees having received this award that they released another round of funding to us.”

The OBM is a culmination of extensive R&D over multiple years and has recently undergone thorough clinical studies to demonstrate proof of concept and efficacy. The technology is the first minimally invasive product that introduces stem cell stimulating growth factors on a scaffold system to regenerate bone defects. “It’s now become significantly easier, less invasive, less traumatic, and cheaper for patients to undergo operations such as spinal fusions, oral cavity implantations, or bone fracture recoveries,” asserts Duneas. “For many decades, the gold standard has been to harvest bone from the hip. Now, in improving patient outcomes, medical practitioners can obviate hipbone harvesting, which can produce detrimental consequences in terms of both health complications and finances.”

Already having received multiple awards and even signing a USD 50 million contract to supply the Brazilian market, the company plans on expanding its infrastructure and establishing a distribution network to quickly gain market share when commercial operations begin in 2016—with the ultimate intention of penetrating the US market. In the meantime, Duneas says Altis Biologics will focus on completing crucial clinical studies on a larger scale and obtaining the proper regulatory approvals.  “Ultimately, to ensure sustainable growth, we’re taking small, but solid steps with accelerating momentum as we obtain new levels of added capabilities and infrastructure.”

Click here to read more articles and interviews from South Africa, and to download the latest free pharma report on the country.

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