Parsippany-based Onkos Surgical has found success by being in the business of serving the underserved.
The 4-year-old life-sciences company has carved a niche in the area of musculoskeletal oncology, or bone cancer medicine. Big pharmaceutical companies often shun the field as it involves a relatively rare disease.
“It’s an area that’s not only underserved in New Jersey but across the country and globally,” said Patrick Treacy, Onkos’ CEO and co-founder.
Musculoskeletal cancer represents just 1 percent of the all cancers diagnosed among adults and 20 percent of cancers in children. There are 3,000 primary bone tumors diagnosed per year in the U.S.
“The folks that operate these big companies go to where the opportunity is,” Treacy said. “They want to invest their research and development dollars in a multibillion-dollar area, and not an area that will only bring in a few millions of dollars. So that leaves an opportunity for the founding of a company like Onkos to be focused on bringing continued innovation to the musculoskeletal oncology surgeon and patients.”
Treacy founded Onkos in 2014 after heading the knee-replacement business at Michigan-based life-sciences company Stryker Corp.
The company got initial venture funding from Philadelphia-based 1315 Capital and received an additional $17.6 million in B-round funding from the same firm. Connecticut-based VC firm Canaan Partners also made an undisclosed investment.
Also, 3D Systems of South Carolina became a strategic partner and made an undisclosed investment.
“Every day, musculoskeletal oncologists and their patients are faced with clinical challenges that have been overlooked for too long,” Treacy said. “We have the portfolio to deliver meaningful innovation with our advanced 3-D printing capabilities, limb-restoration technologies, and biologic solutions – all enabled with a unique service and surgical planning platform called uDesign Patient Solutions.”
The company grew about 600 percent in its first two years, said Treacy, and has shown 40 percent quarter-to-quarter growth.
“We’re on a nice trajectory and we are still just getting the innovations out,” he said. “The musculoskeletal oncology field really began to evolve in the mid-1980s. From the 1950s to the mid-1980’s there wasn’t a lot of innovation, and there wasn’t a lot of change. The prognosis was terrible, and the standard of care was amputation. In the mid-1980s, with some of the improvements in imaging modeling and chemotherapy treatments, it allowed for limb-sparing surgery. Implants were designed that would replace the removed cancerous bone like an artificial knee or hip joint.”
What Onkos brings to the table, he said, are products that assist oncology surgeons in planning for bone removal or replacement surgeries using 3-D printing technology and other innovations through a line of artificial limbs called Eleos.
“Eleos, it’s a modular segmental replacement system,” explained Treacy. “If the surgeon needs to remove the femur, for example, this implant system allows the surgeon to replace that diseased bone with readily available implants that are available on the shelf. It’s like putting together an erector set, so when the inside of your long bones are hollow, a stem or a rod would go up inside of the bone and then the missing bone is replaced with various tubular segments, and then the artificial hip or knee joint is put in.
“What we’re doing now is leveraging the advent of 3-D printing and processing to do a better job of planning the operations with the surgeons. There are times we can get a CT scan from a surgeon and re-create that patient’s anatomy in a computer and then we get the surgeon on a video conference and he can then use that re-creation of the patient’s anatomy along with one of our system’s engineers to figure out how much the surgeon wants to cut where he should cut.”
Treacy also revealed the company is seeking to expand in particular areas and develop research to reduce infections as the result of implant surgery.
“We will be submitting to the FDA new products in the area of aseptic loosening and soft-tissue attachment. We will also be leveraging 3-D printing design and looking for a launch of new products later this year.”
For now, Treacy said Parsippany is an ideal town for the Onkos.
“When we held an event here to raise awareness for Sarcoma earlier this month, the guests that were here were surprised to learn what an incredible technology cluster that has formed here in Parsippany,” he said. “It’s a great town, and we’re close to most of the biggest pharma companies in the country.”