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Orthopedic and Dental Industry News Complete Archive »

Nobel Throws an Implant Party BY DAVID KRESSEL, JUNE 25, 2007

Nobel Biocare held its biannual World Conference in Las Vegas earlier this month. Typically, implant-focused organizations like the American Academy of Implant Dentistry typically have less than 5,000 attendees at their meetings, but Nobel hosted 10,000 in the largest implant-focused meeting in the U.S.

Some of the highlights of the event were the broadcast of 35 live surgeries, clinical presentations and new product introductions. There were a number of products that were presented to the audience, but three products caught our eye:

BMP-Coated Implant: Nobel has a development agreement with Wyeth to develop and sell an implant coated with bone morphogenic protein. This implant is still deep in the R&D phase. Nobel wants to use this product as a replacement or adjunct to implant procedures needing autograft or guided bone regeneration. However, this product won't be through its PMA for another 3 years, and will probably need to present two year follow-up data, as is needed in orthopedics. Therefore, this product most likely won't be available until 2010 at the earliest. Given the development investment and proposed clinical benefits, this implant could list at a 2x-3x multiple over current Nobel implants. Regardless of how nichey this product is, it would be a meaningful scientific development in the musculoskeletal device industry.

Zirconium Implant: Nobel is developing the ZiUnite, a one-piece zirconium implant. There are definite aesthetic benefits to zirconium in the anterior region and potential benefits to soft tissue retention, but ceramic implants as a class will have to overcome a shaky history of fracture, risk of stress shielding and an unclear ability to osseointegrate for the long term. This is an area of heated debate in the industry, and dentists will take a show-me stance to this class of products.

NobelActive: This is an implant focused on immediate load and softer bone types, with a differentiated thread design. It has a different clinical technique, which will mean its popularity will develop slowly.

It is worth noting that Nobel has changed its approach to its R&D investment. Although a number of products were discussed, fewer were commercially launched. This is a reaction to dentists' increased skepticism after NobelDirect came under Swedish post-marketing regulatory scrutiny due to research suggesting the product and/or its labeling was flawed. Nobel is clearly interested in regaining its customers' confidence in its broader product line.

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