By Randall Osborne

Bioactive ceramics, man-made substances capable of bonding with bone and soft tissue, are the focus of a collaboration worth up to $12 million between USBiomaterials Corp. (USB) and SmithKline Beecham plc.

Under terms of the deal, SmithKline will make a payment when the agreement is executed, and more payments as milestones are achieved.

"In three years, we should earn the milestones," said Chuck Saponis, CEO of Alachua, Fla.-based USB.

SmithKline, of London, also will pay USB's out-of-pocket development costs, as well as royalties on any products developed in the collaboration, under which SmithKline will use USB's Bioglass technology.

Bioglass is a material composed of elements identical to the mineral phase of bone.

"It's glass that becomes bioactive when it gets wet," Saponis told BioWorld Today. When implanted, Bioglass binds to hard or soft tissue, and transforms to an interface that creates an environment to complement the healing process.

SmithKline intends to develop the technology in oral applications.

"You've got several different toothpaste applications, for sensitive teeth and for mineralizing the teeth," Saponis said.

USB's products include PerioGlas, a surface-acting bone grafting product to accelerate repair and regeneration of alveolar bone lost to periodontal disease.

"A periodontist will clean the site and put PerioGlas in, and in six months you have new bone — healthy bone, that bleeds," he said.

Another product is Osteoglas, a particulate form of Bioglass, for orthopedic applications. "We're now going heavily into orthopedics," Saponis said. *