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In Spine, A Flurry of Deals

Executive Summary

A conservative industry, orthopedics rarely sees a lot of acquisition activity. But a number of deals among spine companies recently underscores how hot the spine market is right now and the importance of acquisition as a strategy for realizing its potential.

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Spine-Bending Market

Today, the market for spine surgery is growing by more than 20% annually based on fusion technologies alone, despite the fact that those technologies are decades old and flawed. However, a heightened awareness of the clinical drawbacks of fusion is fueling prolific company creation in a new spine motion preservation segment of the industry. Some 118 start-ups in spine are dotting the landscape. Many hope to offer new devices that address spinal joint reconstruction; artificial discs, disc nuclei, annulus repair, facet joint replacement, and dynamic or flexible stabilization of the spine.

In a Red-Hot Orthopedics Market, Zimmer buys Implex

Zimmer's acquisition of Implex Corp. for slightly greater than $100 million is, in some respects, the natural culmination of a standing alliance between the two companies. But it's also interesting for the way in which it seems to embrace all of orthopedics' hot spots. Building on Implex's innovative Hedrocel biomaterial, Zimmer has already developed hip, knee, and shoulder implants, as well as trauma products, out of the collaboration, and has announced that seven development projects are underway. At the same time, this is also clearly a spine play: Implex had developed a line of spine products out of its material, which have already begun to be implanted in Europe and the US, and Zimmer said in announcing the deal that it intends to expand that spine business by incorporating it into Zimmer's own spine division.

J&J Strikes Again in Spine

J&J's aggressive moves in orthopedics has industry executives nervous, most recently about its purchases of artificial disk maker Waldemar Link and biomaterials expert Orquest. The Link valuation (J&J is paying $325 million upfront, plus earn-outs) isn't quite as high as some earlier orthopedics deals, but it is still comparatively substantial. With Link and Orquest under its roof, J&J is poised to assume market leadership in the traditional orthopedics markets and also in spine.

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