Memphis Hosts 15th Musculoskeletal Industry Conference

By Andy Meek


The annual Musculoskeletal New Ventures Conference returns to Memphis this week for the 15th time, bringing together venture capitalists and industry leaders from around the country to give them a “target-rich environment” in which to network and potentially make deals.

That’s how Gary Stevenson, co-founder and managing partner of MB Venture Partners, which is a sponsor of the conference, describes the event, set for Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 17-18, at the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis. Twenty-three startups including two based in Memphis will be presenting over the one-and-a-half-day conference, which will also feature a panel that includes two financial investors and two strategic investors.

“It’s a target-rich environment for anybody doing anything in the musculoskeletal space,” Stevenson said. “If you’re one of the major strategic players, this is a place for you to go find potential M&A targets. If you’re an investor, this is a place to go to find investment opportunities. And if you’re a startup CEO, this is a place to go to find startup capital and to develop strategic relationships that could result in transactions in the future. So it’s really a target-rich environment for our three main audiences.”

An investor roundtable will be comprised of featured speakers who include Stevenson; Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital managing director Melissa Daniels; Medtronic Biologics global marketing director Kip Roberts; Zimmer Biomet director of strategic planning and business development Paul Saam; and Viscogliosi Brothers co-founder Anthony Viscogliosi.

The two presenting Memphis-based startups, both of which have presented at the conference in the past, are Active Implants and CrossRoads Extremity Systems. The latter startup is focused on the design, manufacture and marketing of implant systems for foot and ankle surgery, in addition to looking for ways to help hospitals save money and improve efficiency.

Active Implants develops orthopedic implant solutions to complement the natural biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system. In addition to its Memphis headquarters, Active Implants has offices in The Netherlands and R&D facilities in Israel.

Active Implants announced in August the enrollment of its 100th patient in clinical trials evaluating its NUsurface Meniscus Implant to treat persistent knee pain caused by injured or deteriorating meniscus tissue. The company also manufactures the TriboFit Hip System.

“Treating the 100th NUsurface patient in the U.S. is an important milestone for us as we continue on our mission to fulfill the unmet need in the orthopedic market,” said Active Implants CEO Ted Davis, adding that the company expects to fully enroll all patients in its study plan in the coming months.

Over the next two to three years, pending clearance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, he said the company should be in a position to bring the product to market in the U.S. and fill the gap between minimally invasive meniscus repair and total knee replacement.

“Active Implants has raised capital and has had some important development milestones, and I think our attendees are eager to hear an update on the progress that’s been made there,” Stevenson said. “And the same for Crossroads Extremity Systems. It’s a portfolio company of our firm, MB Venture Partners, and I’m on their board of directors. These are two really exciting and revenue-stage, high-growth companies in the Memphis market that I think our attendees are going to be eager to hear from.

“As exhibited by these two startups, I think there’s reason for a lot of hope. We still have a lot to do, of course – there’s more that can be done on the capital formation side to provide startup money to other promising startups. But I think it’s encouraging to see companies in our community reach some level of success, in terms of commercial success.”

Stevenson estimates the conference will draw 150 to 200 attendees from across the country this year, which is the typical size of the audience. Other events planned for the conference include a presentation on musculoskeletal M&A and an equity market overview led by J.P. Peltier, the global head of health care investment banking for Piper Jaffray Cos.

The conference also has a charitable component. Part of each year’s proceeds is donated to the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, the charter school started by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, which is also a conference sponsor.