A torn ACL, the tiny band of tough connective tissue in the center of the knee, has marked the downfall of many a football star. Remember the running backs Terrell Davis of the Denver Broncos and Jamal Anderson of the Atlanta Falcons?
On Monday, a privately held biotech startup in Boston said it has raised $22.5 million to continue developing its new treatment for the often devastating injury. Among the investors: the union that represents National Football League players.
Dr. Martha Murray, the founder of MIACH Orthopaedics Inc. and an orthopedic surgeon in sports medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, said the new technology “has the potential to transform connective tissue repair.”
Every year in the United States, there are about 400,000 injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament. A tear, which sometimes occurs with a loud pop, won’t heal without treatment. Surgical reconstruction is the standard of care, making ACL repair one of the most common orthopedic procedures.
Typically, surgery involves removing the torn ligament and replacing it with a graft of tendon harvested from healthy parts of the leg. That means two sites on the leg need to heal afterward.
Most patients with traditional surgery are able to return to playing sports. But the ACL re-tear rate can be as high as 20 percent for teenagers, and up to 80 percent of patients develop arthritis 15 to 20 years after surgery.
The new procedure, called Bridge-Enhanced ACL Repair, or BEAR, uses a bioengineered sponge as a bridging scaffold to stimulate healing of the torn ACL.
MIACH Orthopaedics said the device has been successfully tested on nearly 100 patients at Children’s Hospital.
The $22.5 million fund-raising round was led by Amzak Health Investors LLC, of Boca Raton, Fla., and DSM Venturing, of Holland, with participation from the NFL Players Association and other investors.
The company declined to say how much the players’ union contributed.
Murray founded MIACH in 2016. This was the company’s first fund-raising round.