Inspired by our past, looking to the future
Over recent years the AO has nurtured a myriad of innovative initiatives that span all areas of its expertise.
Existing in diverse spaces from laboratories to product development and start-up investment, all these activities are conceived as mutually complementary and as contributing in their own ways to the AO's continued presence as a leading innovator in the surgical treatment of trauma and musculoskeletal disorders. The AO Strategy Fund has played an important role in these efforts.
Expanding horizons in research and innovation
The AO Strategy Fund has been a key driver, not only of projects to specifically recognize and honor the AO's history in this 60th anniversary year, but also of a broad range of partnerships with other leading players in the health care sector.
With over 200 applications from 34 countries, and 20 partnerships generated, the AO Strategy Fund's impact has been significant.
The 14 successfully completed projects backed by the AO Strategy Fund exist in radically different spaces, from smart socks to the AO Archive and History Project, from developing a Generic Asian Pelvic Bone Model to strengthening preclinical research at the AO and supporting health care professionals working in disasters and conflicts.
However, they all work together to continue the AO founders' legacy of bringing innovation to new areas and help the AO itself stay relevant in a fast-changing environment.
The AO Strategy Fund recognizes that there is a real need for a pathway to help bring new and brilliant ideas that exist outside the AO—into the AO. It has helped the AO remain relevant and future-oriented and all the projects backed have been the best fit with the AO's mission and were those with the strongest chance of success.
Strengthening's the AO's preclinical research
Preclinical research is an essential part of the development of any new treatments for use in humans. The AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) takes a rigorous approach to this research.
This work starts in the laboratory with cell culture systems, bioreactors, and mechanical testing on human specimen bones or bone substitutes as well as computer models. Before clinical trials involving human patients can be launched, preclinical studies are carried out.
The AO Strategy Fund has backed a project to strengthen the AO's preclinical research capacity. This project focuses on three key elements: education in preclinical research, Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) certification, and the use of sheep in modeling fracture treatment and healing.
A central goal of this project is to develop a flock of specific pathogen-free (SPF) sheep for preclinical studies. SPF sheep are those that are free from certain identified diseases that can be present in the animal while not displaying any symptoms—but which can negatively affect the healing response and increase variables in the study.
Having SPF sheep would have clear benefits in terms of study reliability and animal welfare, considerations which the AO takes very seriously.
Thanks to this support from AO Strategy Fund, the Preclinical Services team at ARI has spent the last three years defining an approach to developing a flock of SPF sheep that it is now working to implement. These animals must be protected against infection through contact with other (non-SPF) sheep and wild animals, but also through contact with people and even equipment.
Currently, the AO has 21 SPF sheep in its flock, and a larger building is needed if the AO is to expand its research capabilities in this area. The AO is currently working to get local and regional approval for this facility, which would be the first of its kind in Europe.