Local Orthopaedic Surgeon Strengthens Cleveland's Biomed Industry

Local Orthopaedic Surgeon Strengthens Cleveland's Biomed IndustryBioEnterprise

Often, healthcare innovations come directly from practitioners looking to improve patient care and outcomes.

A prime example of this is the story of orthopaedic surgeon David Kay. When working at Akron General Hospital in the 1990s, Kay was frustrated with the instruments and implants then currently available for use in surgery.

“The tools were from the 1950s, and looked like they came straight from a hardware store,” Kay said. “I was seeking solutions that would lead to better results.”

A self-described “intuitive as opposed to trained engineer,” Kay literally took matters into his own hands by designing his first surgical device — a corkscrew open-wire helix for orthopedic surgery — and bootstrapping his company, Orthohelix, out of the basement of his house.

Through the guidance and support of BioEnterprise and several community funders, he attracted multi-million dollar investments and brought in professional management to grow the business. Kay remained as chief medical officer, translating surgical needs and biomechanical concepts into a comprehensive line of new implants and tools for foot and ankle surgery.

Kay's contributions to improving patient outcomes is part of Cleveland's nationally recognized efforts in biomedical innovation as a hotbed of global health advancements. Known as “The Medical Capital,” the city is home to a vibrant biomedical industry with more than 700 companies and world-renowned clinical, research and education institutions, including Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals.
“This definitely wasn’t an easy process,” Kay said. “I ruminated about serious surgical needs and solutions surrounded by crumpled paper with smoke coming out of my ears.”

Fast growth, big impact
Orthohelix soon became one of the fastest growing companies in the region, and was acquired by Tornier N.V. for more than $140 million in 2012. Kay credits his entire team for the company’s successful development and exit.

Recently, Kay also founded and serves as Managing Partner of EDC (Extremity Development Company), an enterprise led by an investment group of internationally renowned orthopedic surgeons to grow standalone companies in a range of orthopedic specialties. The firm has already filed six patents for ankle braces (a $2 billion market) and has spun out a new company, Rubber City Bracing, LLC.

In addition to his role at EDC, Kay is Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Northeast Ohio Medical University and maintains a private surgical practice at the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center.

But he is not considering retirement anytime soon.

“If I’m not seeing problems every day, I’m not sure what problems need to be solved,” Kay said. “My motivation, my passion is to get better surgical results consistently - how can you make even very good surgeries better and elevate ability? So many things need to be addressed.”