Clemson student’s device a finalist in medical design challenge

November 19, 2013

A South Carolina healthcare startup plans to use magnets to help patients with knee dysfunction continue to live active lives. A simple but true orthopedics innovation, the Engage Knee System uses magnets to lock and unlock a knee replacement to allow for more mobility for those patients.

Founder Eric Lucas said many patients with knee dysfunction, precluded from total knee replacement or having already had one, choose to have their two legbones fused together-knee arthrodesis. This means the leg is always rigid. “There are pluses and minuses,” he said. “It allows a patient to walk around on their own, without a wheelchair. . . . But it gets in the way of daily activities,” such as driving, bathing, sitting in the front seat of a car and so on.

“Some would rather have it amputated in some cases or have the ability to bend it even if it means being confined to a wheelchair,” Lucas said.

The Engage Knee System is a “variant of a knee replacement that can actually be locked in place,” Lucas said. This is done by waving a handheld device with a magnet over the knee. When locked, they have stability and support to walk. Wave the device over again, and it’s unlocked. The leg can bend and the person with the implant can sit comfortably, he said.

“It’s a mechanical locking system that’s actuated by a magnet.”

Why magnets?

“You have to communicate in some way with the inside of the body with the implant through the outside of the body,” he said. Because the device is load-bearing, they wanted to keep the mechanics simple. Because other devices, though not a device to replace arthrodesis, have used magnets for implants similarly, Lucas said it will provide a faster 510(k) clearance path.

The company will be competing in the SCBIO Pitch Contest Nov. 15. Lucas said the company’s edge is this: “We know exactly where this fits in and how to get it there. . . . We see the pathway to the end. That says a lot and reduces a lot of the risk.”

The team has created several prototypes and is applying for grants. The system was also a finalist for MDDI’s Dare to Dream Medtech Design Challenge. In the best scenario, Lucas said the device could be commercialized in two years.

“The Engage Knee really fits in very well in an existing platform of total knee replacements,” he said. The hope would be to have the product acquired by one of those larger (Warsaw?) orthopedics companies with a full line dedicated to knee reconstruction.

Lucas came up with the Engage Knee System as a biomedical engineering grad student at Clemson University. A Hoosier, he had a background in orthopedics, having worked at VOT Solutions in Warsaw, Ind., Orthopedics Capital of the World.

The medical devices company spun out from Clemson University about a year ago, though he’s been working on the research longer, he said.

Read more from MEDCITY News.

Read the official press release from Clemson University.