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U-M and Belgium company Materialise sign license agreement for life-saving 3D-printed tracheal splints

Agreement paves way for clinical trial to help more children with life-threatening airway disorder tracheobronchomalacia

ANN ARBOR, Mich. —  A new agreement opens the door for groundbreaking, 3D-printed technology that saved four babies’ lives to help more children at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

The University of Michigan and Belgium-based Materialise, which has a Plymouth branch, have signed a license agreement that will ultimately commercialize the 3D printed splints used to treat cases of a life-threatening airway disorder at Mott. The move paves the way for ultimately taking the splint through a clinical trial.

The 3D printed technology was developed by Mott otolaryngologist Dr. Glenn Green and U-M Biomedical Engineering Professor Dr. Scott Hollister in 2012. Tracheobronchomalacia, a rare condition that affects 1 in 2,200 babies, causes the windpipe to periodically collapse and prevents normal breathing. The bioresorbable splints, designed to grow with babies and eventually dissolve, have helped keep the four children’s airways open. Materialise’s sophisticated software called “Mimics” was used to help design the customized splints for each patient’s trachea.

The U-M team hopes to next year open a clinical trial for 30 patients with similar conditions at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“This agreement is a critical step in our goal to make this treatment readily available for other children who suffer from this debilitating condition,” Green says.

“We have continued to evolve and automate the design process for the splints, allowing us to achieve in two days what used to take us up to five days to accomplish,” adds Scott Hollister, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. “I feel incredibly privileged to be building products that surgeons can use to save lives.”  

With its headquarters in Leuven, Belgium, and branches worldwide, Materialise is a provider of Additive Manufacturing (AM) software solutions and sophisticated 3D printing services in a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, automotive, aerospace, art and design and consumer products.

“Here at Materialise, we strongly believe in the transformative power of great collaborations, such as the one we have enjoyed these past two years with Dr. Green, Dr. Hollister, and all others who have contributed to this life-saving application of 3D printing,” says Bryan Crutchfield, managing director for Plymouth-based Materialise U.S.A. “This collaboration is proof that when the right skill sets and technologies are combined, solutions can be found for problems once thought impossible.”

Dr. Green and Dr. Hollister
(From left) Dr. Scott Hollister and Dr. Glenn Green

“It was the possibility to realize 3D printing enabled medical applications that, in part, motivated me to start Materialise 25 years ago,” adds Materialise Founder and CEO Fried Vancraen.

“Today, we are proud to offer an entire range of software and services that can help universities, research centers, medical device companies, and hospitals develop solutions that result in a better and healthier world, such as the treatment developed for children diagnosed with TBM. It has been an honor to work with the team at University of Michigan, who are using our Mimics Innovation Suite to truly show the impact that patient-specific, 3D-printed solutions can have on the lives of individuals.”

During the first feasibility clinical trial, splints will be produced in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan.  

Read more about the babies whose lives were saved by this technology here.

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