Devices & Diagnostics

J&J highlights plans for 3D printed orthopedics and contact lenses following alliance with HP

The partnership is a win for Fitchet’s plan to turn around J&J’s slow-growing device unit by partnering with external players.

HP 3D printingOn the heels of its collaboration with HP Inc. focused on 3D printing, Johnson & Johnson officials provided more specifics about its ambitious plans for the manufacturing technique during a meeting with Wall Streeters. The alliance with HP is only one of J&J’s more than 50 strategic collaborations with other companies, government agencies and academics inspired by the technology.

The company revealed that it is developing a trio of 3D printed devices, on top of its 3D printed cutting guide. Most surprising are its plans for a 3D printed, sunlight-enabled personalized contact lens.

Peter Shen, vice president of R&D at the company’s vision care unit, said the lens will “help you to customize vision and comfort just for you.” Using it “smart” platform, the company plans to embed sensors and microprocessors into the device. The first indication will be for the treatment of presbyopia, he said.
In addition, J&J is joining Stryker and Smith & Nephew in the race to develop 3D printed orthopedic implants.

“Specifically in the Medical Devices group, we are collaborating with tissue regeneration systems in order to develop a 3D-printed bone graft cage. This is a unique bio-resolvable, patient-specific osteoconductive scaffold. And it will support bone graft placement in very difficult clinical scenarios, for example, where you have a bone void and bone non-union or in cases of bone cancer,” said Martin Fitchet, J&J’s global head of medical device R&D.

“We’re also refining a 3D-printed, patient-specific TriFlange Acetabular hip system, which will be used in severe acetabular revision cases. And we’re currently providing 3D-specific personalized cutting guides to support our Attune and segment knee platforms, which will help to ensure optimal placement of the device for old patients.”

Meanwhile Stryker, just launched a 3D printed spinal implant, and the company has a “huge lineup of other divisions with ideas and prototypes to get into 3D printed titanium products,” according to CEO Kevin Lobo. It’s also building a $400 million 3D printing manufacturing facility.

And Smith & Nephew in March announced the launch of its 3D printed Redapt Cup hip implant.

presented by

But J&J chairman Sandra Peterson said the customizable, on-demand manufacturing technique poses regulatory challenges. “We need to create a regulatory framework to enable us to work with regulators and how do you think about GMP requirements? How do you think about what is regulated? How do you think about all of those sorts of things?” she asked. To that end, the FDA just released draft guidance on 3D printing in a bid to improve regulation and add clarity about its requirements.

“The intersection of technology and health care is spurring innovation that will have a profound impact on patients and consumers all over the world,” Peterson said in a statement following the announcement of the alliance with HP Inc.

“Combined with advances in data mining and software, 3D printing could enable distributed manufacturing models and patient-specific products, therapies and solutions that deliver better outcomes, better economics and improved global accessibility. This collaboration with HP Inc. exemplifies our commitment to harnessing new technology to improve outcomes and reduce costs across the health continuum.”

The partnership is a win for Fitchet’s plan to turn around J&J’s slow-growing device unit by partnering with external players.

It’s also consistent with HP’s strategy to focus on the industrial side of the 3D printing arena, rather than on the consumer side, which consists of desktop printers that sell for about $300. In addition to manufacturing for end-use, 3D printing has lots of applications as a method of prototyping technology to speed up the R&D process.

HP CEO Dion Weisler told Fortune that the company (which recently broke off from Hewlett Packard Enterprise) has 3D printing collaborations with four other “co-development” companies.