HAMBURG, Germany - The Swiss medical technology company Sulzer Medica Ltd., of Winthertur, said it is creating a biotechnology division in Austin, Texas.

The new entity, Sulzer Biologics Inc., will bundle all current biotechnology activities of Sulzer Medica and Sulzer Innotec, the company's corporate research and development division.

Sulzer Medica has a strong presence in the U.S. and international markets with medical implants and surgical products, primarily for orthopedic, dental, and cardiovascular applications. Products include artificial joints, spine and dental implants, and products for traumatology, arthroscopy, heart valves and vascular grafts.

"A couple of years ago we recognized the significance of biotechnology research for advancing our competence in developing implantable medical devices and biomaterials," Hans-Caspar Ryser, of Sulzer Medica, told BioWorld International. "We already have established considerable research and development activities in the field of growth factors."

Several therapeutic applications have entered clinical studies or even reached the approval process, he added. Earlier this year, Sulzer announced the first implantation of its Ne-Osteo Bone Morphogenic Protein for dental uses. The implantation took place at the University of California at Los Angeles under an investigational device exemption approved by the FDA.

"Biotechnology will have significant impact on applications in spinal disc regeneration, spinal fusion, etc.," Ryser said. "This is a market growing very fast already. Hence, biotechnology will create substantial value for the company."

But biotechnology activities will have applications outside Sulzer's current strategic markets as well, Ryser added, citing wound-healing, nerve-regeneration and stroke therapy are examples.

Sulzer Biologics will employ about 100 people at the start and will receive about a quarter of Sulzer Medica's yearly research budget of SFr 25million (US$16.2 million).

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