Nitinol alloy demonstrates value of true partnership approach to R&D
The medical device industry was revolutionised in the mid 1990s by the introduction of nitinol into device manufacturing. Known for its shape memory
characteristics and super-elastic properties it is an excellent alloy to use in the manufacture of stents. However nitinol is difficult to see under fluoroscopy which can cause challenges in the placement of nitinol devices in minimally invasive procedures.
This issue has been somewhat addressed by the use of gold markers on the nitinol stents or the inclusion of a platinum core wire, however this can add to the complexity and size of the device.
Cook Medical, a family-owned multinational, has worked closely with physicians since 1963 to develop technologies that eliminate the need for open surgery. Engineers at the Cook plant in Limerick saw potential to work with nitinol to make it radio-opaque under fluroscopy and therefore improve visibility for the physician.
So they turned to the Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI) at the University of Limerick. Working through an Enterprise Ireland assisted Innovation Partnership, a research team led by serial inventor Dr. Syed Tofail identified alloying elements to make these devices as visible as ones made with gold or platinum additions.
The project was undertaken in three distinct rounds. The first involved creating the radio-opaque alloy, the second ensuring it had the necessary mechanical properties to work and the third to ensure production could be scaled up commercially.
Bill Doherty, Executive VP of Cook Medical for Europe, Middle East and Africa and the MD of its Irish operation, said the project is a good example of the strength of UL in translational research. "The ability of the two partners to work closely together will be extremely helpful in implementing the breakthrough technology into commercial products that benefit patients worldwide," he said.
UL Technology Transfer Director Paul Dillon said that the project, which produced several granted patents, significant processing IP and employment for UL project researchers in Cook Medical post-project, demonstrates the value of a genuine partnership between industry and academia.
Strong company commitment and outstanding leadership from Syed Tofail was critically important to the outcome, Dillon noted, adding that the project illustrates the UL commitment to industry engagement and the "can do" culture that exists within the young, solution focused institution.
This project has raised Cook Medical's profile and reputation within its international parent, and helped to further establish UL as a "go to" centre of excellence for material science. It has also led to additional projects and further engagement between the two parties.
Publish date: 2014
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