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China: Venture Capital for Future Technology

Evonik Invests in Chinese 3D-Printing Start-Up

| Editor: Alexander Stark

Meditool's 3D-printed implants for neurosurgery and spine surgery enable patients to recover faster and reduce surgical risks.
Meditool's 3D-printed implants for neurosurgery and spine surgery enable patients to recover faster and reduce surgical risks. (Source: Evonik)

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Evonik Venture Capital invests in a 3D-printing start-up in China that makes implants for neuro and spine surgery. The company is the lead investor in a high single-digit million-euro round of fundraising for Shanghai-based Meditool.

Essen/Germany; Shanghai/China — It is Evonik's first direct investment in China: By investing in the start-up Meditool, the company wants to secure access to disruptive technologies through venture capital.

The Chinese 3D-printing start-up has developed its own hardware and software systems. The software can read and process images directly from commonly used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography scan (CT) devices. A readily printable 3D model is generated by the software and sent to the printer. The implants are 3D printed with a high-performance polymer supplied by Evonik called Polyetheretherketone (PEEK).

According to Thomas Grosse-Puppendahl, Meditool's technology fits perfectly with the strategy to expand Evonik's business to high-tech applications for 3D printing materials. The head of the of the innovation growth field Additive Manufacturing explains that medical applications are of particular interest, and that his company's high performance polymers had already been proven as a reliable implant material in other applications such as dental

For patients and doctors, 3D-printed PEEK implants are revolutionary compared with metal, the current conventional solution for the orthopaedics implant market. 3D-printing allows customization so that, for example, a plate can be made to fit precisely to the patient’s skull. This reduces the likelihood that further operations will be required to adjust the size, shape or positioning of the implant. PEEK is less thermally conductive than metal, meaning that patients exposed to hot and cold temperatures won’t be in danger of the implant heating up or cooling down excessively. The material is biocompatible (not harmful to living tissue) and CT and MRI examinations become possible after surgery.

Evonik’s venture capital arm has already invested in two funds in China and with Meditool, it now has its first direct investment. Co-investors in Meditool include ZN Ventures, Morningside Ventures and Puhua Capital.

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