Invention treats bone fractures

A School of Medicine professor has helped create two inventions that may allow doctors to prevent and treat painful bone fractures more efficiently.

In an agreement announced Monday, the University has given New Jersey-based biopharmaceutical company Unigene Laboratories exclusive rights to license the inventions, discovered jointly by orthopedic surgery professor Agnes Vignery and two Unigene researchers. Vignery said the new treatments could help patients avoid broken hipbones and vertebrae by surgically applying agents to promote and accelerate growth in precise locations.

“The purpose of the inventions is to prevent bone fractures that result from a decreased bone mass,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The novel idea is to target new bone to specific sites.”

Henry Lowendorf, associate director of cooperative research, said Yale and Unigene together own and have jointly filed patent applications for the two inventions.

“Yale has also essentially made a promise to Unigene that it will not go out and license rights to the inventions to anyone else,” Lowendorf said. “We decided that such an agreement makes the most sense in terms of focusing resources.”

He said the ultimate goal of the licensing agreement is to promote development of the technologies into marketable products.

Ronald Levy, Unigene executive vice president, said the medical uses for the inventions would include minimally intrusive surgery performed on an outpatient basis and could help reduce chronic pain associated with serious bone fractures and osteoporosis.

He said applications for the technologies could be prolific, as bone surgery is very common across the country.

“At least 17,000 vertebroplasties are performed every year,” Levy said, “and that is only one potential application for the inventions.”

The inventions — which could also be used to implant prosthetic bone — are more target-specific than other bone-growth agents on the market, Levy said, because other treatments are administered by injection. The major injectable treatment currently on the market is Eli Lilly’s osteoporosis treatment Forteo, he said.

Though doctors and pharmaceutical company representatives have advised Unigene that the new inventions seem promising, Levy said, the company needs to perform further development — preclinical trials on animals and clinical trials on patients — before the technologies can reach the market. Unigene is currently recruiting a group of orthopedic surgeons to help perform testing.

Unigene, which has collaborated with Yale on projects in the past, has also agreed to fund further research at the University, Lowendorf said.

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