Industry Sponsored Project: Custom Orthopaedic Solutions

Author: Kate Bussey


Custom Orthopaedic Solutions (COS) is a startup supported by Cleveland Clinic Innovations, the commercialization arm of Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic Innovations aims to be a space where Cleveland Clinic employees can take their innovative ideas to full commercialization, therefore impacting the lives of their patients. Collaborative teams are formed within Cleveland Clinic Innovations, incorporating the expertise of doctors, surgeons, residents, nurses, researchers, administrators, engineers, and business acumen all having one thing in common – entrepreneurship.


COS was spearheaded by CEO Pete O’Neill and Chairman Dr. Joseph Iannotti. O’Neill attended MIT and has been an employee at the Cleveland Clinic since 2005. In addition to his role as CEO of Custom Orthopaedics, Pete serves as the director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations. Dr. Iannotti is an orthopaedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, is Co-Director of the Orthopaedic Research Center, and works in the department of biomedical engineering.  Additional team members include web developer Rakesh Guha, quality engineer Keith Grafmeyer, several product technicians, and Kyle Walker a resident at Cleveland Clinic partnered with COS.

Prior to ESTEEM student Kate Bussey's thesis project, Custom Orthopaedics’ focus has been patient-specific surgical planning and custom instrumentation for improved orthopedic surgical outcome. Last year’s ESTEEM student Feranmi Okanlami, worked with COS on a patient specific medical device intended to make pedicle screw placement in spinal surgeries faster and more accurate.


Kate's thesis regards a new COS venture looking to use 3D-printing to design custom airway stents for patients suffering from various respiratory illnesses. COS saw the opportunity to modify software previously developed for surgical planning purposes to design patient specific airway stents. These custom stents will address several pain points surrounding current airway stent treatment as recognized by Dr. Gildea, a Cleveland Clinic pulmonologist specializing in obstructive central airway treatment. Custom Orthopaedic Solutions’ comprehensive process of implementing 3D printing methods to design stents formed to a patient’s specific anatomy and disease state is expected to effectively reduce irritation, infection, and migration as well as making the insertion process faster and more efficient. The objective is that patient specific airway stents will both improve patients’ quality of life as well as reduce procedure time.

Kate's work has involved assessing the commercialization potential of COS’ custom airway stents through customer validation, market size analysis, exploration of barriers to entry, intellectual property investigation, and financial modeling. Coming from a Chemistry background in undergrad, this industry sponsored thesis project has offered Kate the opportunity to learn a lot about a new field, while exploring innovation and entrepreneurship in the healthcare industry. This hands-on experience is what makes the ESTEEM program unique and pushes students to take skills learned in the classroom and immediately apply them to real world opportunities.