Athens Startup Wants to Prevent Millions of Unnecessary Bone Fractures

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How OsteoDX’s technology can help those suffering from osteoporosis and save billions

Too often, the elderly and others find themselves taking a slight tumble and breaking a bone. That break can lead to a long hospital stay, which can lead to other issues that can put you back in the hospital, a vicious and unfortunately common cycle. But what if you could have advanced warning that your bones were in danger of breaking easily, even before you knew you needed to worry about it? That’s the kind of paradigm shift happening at the Ohio University Innovation Center, where OsteoDX is ready to revolutionize its field.

“OsteoDX is a non-invasive technology designed to identify whether you’re at risk of a fragility fracture,” said CEO Gary Wakeford. “A fragility fracture is a low-level trauma fracture where the bone probably should not have broken, but it did because of underlying bone disease like osteoporosis or osteopenia. It’s a huge problem in America and we believe we’ve developed the technology to identify who’s at risk so they can make an intervention to prevent that bone from ever breaking.”

In 2016, OsteoDX was born as AEIOU Scientific, a reference to both its original founders and its high-level technology. Since then, the business has changed its name, shifted leadership, partnered with TechGROWTH Ohio for investment and its new home at the Innovation Center and set a bold new path to make a huge difference.

“Every year in the United States, there’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million fractures that occur because of osteoporosis and osteopenia,” Wakeford said. “The current standard of care measures bone-mineral density, but that’s not a good predictor of fracture. So a major reason why these fractures are happening is because there’s no technology to identify who’s at risk of fracture. We believe we can fill that void.”

The OsteoDX device uses vibration analysis in a non-invasive process that is easy to administer, with no radiation or pain of any kind. Their algorithm analyzes the “echo” of the vibration to determine the stiffness of the bone, which gives them the data they need to make an assessment. It all takes about 15 minutes, which they hope to get down to even eight or 10.

“We’re working on configurations that we believe can significantly reduce the size of the machine,” Wakeford said. “We’d like to have it more like a chair with a cuff that is strapped in place where we can take a reading. If we can achieve that milestone it would be significant, helping us leapfrog the competition. It would allow us to put it in a general practitioner, gynecologist or orthopedic center. I think that’s a key: having it readily available to the people who need this testing.”

For OsteoDX, the potential is easy to see. Between the cost of those fractures and the human who suffers from them, the company believes they’re on the verge of changing the way people think about bone breaks as people age.

“Those 2 million fractures that happen every year are costing the healthcare system $19 billion, so it’s a huge, huge problem,” he said. “For a large portion of people suffering fractures, especially with hips, a fracture leads to life-altering situations and even death. If we could have a significant impact on reducing those 2 million fractures every year, that alone would be huge not only in improving and extending quality of life, but reducing the expenses that our government and healthcare has to spend to reduce these issues.”

OsteoDX’s trajectory is promising and exciting, with the company building on momentum generated from winning a $100,000 investment from GLIDE, a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and NASA’s Ignite the Night OHIO Award. Those awards, Wakeford said, are indications that high-level government agencies are just as aware of the problem as OsteoDX is. Now, they’re ready to ramp up studies, validation and testing that will lead toward FDA approval. And as the process moves along, he said they couldn’t have a better home than Athens.

“The technology itself was developed here at Ohio University, so it was a really natural progression for us to work with the Innovation Center,” Wakeford said. “But this has also been a tremendous place for us to start this company because of the support we’ve gotten. Stacy Strauss and the folks who run the center have been incredibly supportive, making introductions to potential investors and others. Our NASA win was huge, and we would never have known about it without the Technology Transfer Office. And TechGROWTH Ohio has been another meaningful supporter, helping us with grant writing and making connections. It’s amazing the way all these organizations have come together to lift us and help us grow.”

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