Kansas R&D group targets federal economic stimulus funds for medical composites

The Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research in Wichita, Kan., hopes to get $15 million in stimulus funds to help build a facility to develop composite medical implants.

The Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research (CIBOR, Wichita, Kan.), a group of scientists and academics working to apply aerospace composite technology to medical implants, has applied for a $15 million (USD) grant from U.S. federal stimulus money to build a research facility. The city of Wichita has donated 43 acres of land worth $1.2 million to CIBOR, which plans to build a 50,000-ft2/4,645m2 research structure next to the National Center for Aviation Training. CIBOR expects to hear from federal officials in February 2010 whether or not it won the grant.

CIBOR started three years ago when Wichita scientists Dr. John Tomblin and David McDonald began looking at ways of applying composites used in the aircraft industry to the medical industry to produce bio-compatible, lightweight, flexible hip and knee replacements and other devices. McDonald, the director of Wichita State University’s graduate school and all WSU research, obtained this year the first installment of what promises to be about $20 million in research money from the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Tomblin, who is the director both of WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) and of the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, has spearheaded the effort to acquire stimulus funds. Already operational, CIBOR maintains five laboratories in temporary facilities in Wichita, including one lab housed at NIAR.

Spurring interest in CIBOR research is the fact that traditional metals and plastics used in medical implants can, over time, inhibit bone growth and development, cause inflammation and eventually force additional surgery. Composites, at the molecular level, are similar to bone and thus can be adapted to provide a more durable, more compatible implant.

Paul H. Wooley, Ph.D, director of the Orthopaedic Research Institute and a professor of biology at Wichita State University, serves as CIBOR’s research director. He says that the organization, once fully functional, will facilitate applied R&D for manufacturers that desire to incorporate composites into their medical equipment. Services will include help with design and prototyping, primarily using chopped and continuous carbon fiber — because of its biocompatibility — in a variety of resin matrices and manufacturing processes. CIBOR also will help clients with the FDA approval process, and has five areas of focus: Composites, bio-engineering, imaging, bio-compatibility and animal testing. For more information on CIBOR, visit www.ncibor.net.