According to the latest statistics from the European Patent Office, medical technology has the second highest number of applications after digital communication. In 2019, 128 applications of Spanish origin were presented to the office, which represents a growth of 10% compared to the previous year.
It was not this trend, but a personal experience that led Juan Abascal to dedicate himself to research in this field. One day, while playing football at university, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee. This injury is perhaps the most feared injury among athletes, because the recovery time in the best case scenario is not less than six months and in the worst cases, they can never play again.
For athletes six months is a lot of time to lose, as sport has a limited period of time to be active.
Motivated by the desire to excel, Juan Abascal began to investigate a solution to the problem. As a result the WasherCap project was created. In this interview he talks about the project and winning the Everis Global Award.
WasherCap: a minimally invasive soft tissue fixation device
What is your “WasherCap” invention?
The WasherCap is a soft tissue fixation device, used in ligament or tendon reconstruction operations, such as a ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) of the knee, which is one of the most common injuries in sports medicine.
It is estimated that 3 in every 6,000 people tear the cruciate ligament of the knee each year. How can you improve the surgical solutions that are available at the moment?
At the moment, the tendon fixation that replaces the original ACL is mainly done with interference screws (Gold Standard). However, these screws were designed in the 1980s for bone fixation and as there is no specific soft tissue fixation device, they are still used today.
The WasherCap is a device specifically developed for the fixation of soft tissue, minimally invasive, that does not depend on the quality of the bone. In addition to achieving optimal resistance, it allows it to be equally effective for adult men, women and children.
How long have you been working on developing the different versions of this invention?
The project started in 2014, and since then work has been done to achieve a safe and effective design. We have worked with a first-rate medical team who assisted us throughout the testing and validation process. In 2019 we obtained the CE marking of the device, so soon we will be able to start marketing it in Europe.
A project with a different concept by an innovative team
How were the R&D team involved in the development of the invention?
Our R&D team whose character and innovative spirit, have been essential to differentiate ourselves in such a competitive sector. They have been able to approach the project from scratch with a completely different concept that adapts to the needs of the patient and the surgeon. They have been able to interpret these needs and convert them into a device that will help thousands of people regain their quality of life.
Although at Abanza Tecnomed they are currently focused primarily on the reconstruction of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament of the knee, could it be applied to other types of reconstructions?
Our goal is for the WasherCap to start to be used in the reconstruction of ACL of the knee, to share these first results with the medical environment and gradually expand our presence in the market.
Of course, we plan to tackle new projects and continue to bring innovation to the Sports Medicine market. In this respect, technological diversification is a challenge that we can tackle later with the collaboration of our medical team.
How have they obtained the funding to carry out the research that has allowed the invention to be developed?
At first, like most people who start a project, we did it with our own capital. As our needs for equipment, and our own goals increased, external funding was required. In 2017 we looked for new investors and as a result new partners joined the company. Thanks to this capital injection and the confidence placed in the project, we have been able to complete the validation of the device and initiate market entry.
An invention of international relevance
What has it meant having won the Everis Global 2019 award in which candidates from different countries participated?
This award is recognition of the work that the entire ABANZA team has done for many years. The Everis Global Award has become a benchmark for supporting innovation with social impact. In the 2019 event more than 2,000 projects from Europe and Latin America were presented, all of which had a lot of potential. There were 10 finalist and we were representing Spain, so to win the Global event, was very exciting. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for the work of the Everis Foundation in organizing these types of awards that support entrepreneurship.
What has been the reaction of the sports medicine / trauma sector to your invention?
From the beginning we have relied on doctors who specialise in sports medicine to participate in the validation trials of the WasherCap. This has allowed us to create an innovative device adapted to the reality of surgery and the needs of the doctor. There has been positive acceptance and recognition of the value provided, by both the medical professionals and the distributors.
What has your experience with ABG been like? How have ABG contributed to your project?
ABG has been and is a reliable companion with a great team that has become part of ABANZA whenever we need it. In the medical device sector, intellectual property is one of our most important assets, as it is a way we have to protect our innovation. ABG gives us the expert and specialised vision, necessary to complete a project that seeks excellence. From the first meeting we had with Fernando Prieto in Madrid we knew that we wanted to work with them. Trusting ABG has undoubtedly been a good decision.