By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq
Johnson & Johnson's corporate venture capital arm, Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JJDC, Inc. (JJDC), led a group of investors who poured $15 million funding into CartiHeal Ltd., an Israel-based medtech company that makes a bio-absorbable implant for regeneration of cartilage and bone in the setting of early osteoarthritis. CartiHeal's existing investors — Elron, Accelmed, Access Medical Ventures, and Peregrine Venture — also participated in the financing round.
The funds are earmarked for ramping up manufacturing operations, ahead of initial European commercialization in 2017, as well as for future clinical studies to new therapeutic areas.
"This round of funding is a testament to the investor's commitment and satisfaction with CartiHeal's progress, and its revolutionary paradigm change in the treatment of cartilage and osteoarthritis," said Uri Geiger, managing partner of Accelmed and a board member with Cartiheal, in the announcement.
CartiHeal has developed the Agili-C implant, a CE-marked "bi-phasic, porous, resorbable, tissue regeneration scaffold, for the treatment of focal articular cartilage and/or osteochondral defects," according to the company's website. Cartiheal's proprietary technology transforms aragonite — a material commonly used as a bone graft substitute and filler — into a chondrogenic matrix after undergoing chemical, physical, and biological modifications. The resulting composite has proven effective in multiple clinical trials for hyaline cartilage regeneration, as well as regeneration of the underlying subchondral bone, the company claims. Over 200 patients in Europe have successfully been implanted with Agili-C through a mini-arthrotomy approach.
"The Agili-C implant has demonstrated outstanding ability to reproducibly regenerate hyaline cartilage," said Nir Altschuler, founder and CEO of CartiHeal, in the announcement. "Agili-C enables biological resurfacing of cartilage and its underlying subchondral bone through a tissue regeneration process. The device is suitable for a wide range of pathologies from focal traumatic lesions to moderate stages of osteoarthritis."
While other bone regeneration solutions use cells, growth factors, or other exogenous agents, CartiHeal claims that Agili-C's biocompatible and biodegradable materials are just as effective in stimulating true regeneration. CartiHeal says its product fills an unmet need for persons with early-stage osteoarthritis who have not responded well to conservative treatment, but are not yet candidates for full joint replacement procedures.
Simultaneous to unveiling its investment in CartiHeal, JJDC announced that it is among a group of investors who completed a $28 million Series B financing round for another Israel-based company, V-Wave Ltd., which makes an implantable shunt for the treatment of heart failure.
According to the JJDC website, it is the oldest corporate venture fund in the life science industry, having invested in early-stage technologies for more than 40 years. A 2015 survey by MedCity News-Lake Whillans shows that JJDC is the most trustworthy corporate investor among startups, ahead of Google Ventures, Lilly Ventures, Novartis Venture Fund, and Roche Venture Fund and St Jude Medical (tie).
In further support of Israel-based startups, J&J, in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Scientist and other industry partners, established in 2014 a biotech and medtech incubator near Israel’s Weizmann Science Park.