Speaker Spotlight: Dr Sonny Bal, Chairman of the Board, CEO and President, Amedica

Earlier this year we caught up with Dr Sonny Bal, Chairman of the Board, CEO and President of Amedica, about the challenges of developing and introducing bioceramic materials. Dr Bal moderated the session Evaluating Clinical Data Performance of Bioceramics and Bioglasses for Orthopedic Applications, which is part of a track specially dedicated to medical applications of ceramics and glass at the Conference at Ceramics Expo 2017.

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FJ - Fleur Jonker (Conference Producer) 

SB - Sonny Bal 

FJ: Please tell us about your role at Amedica. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?

SB: The focus is to keep the ball moving, in terms of continuing investigation of the basic science related to silicon nitride, clinical data to support our spine sales, and disseminating knowledge at peer forums. Responsibilities pertain to ensuring fiscal health for the company, while enabling and encouraging a superb team of dedicated professionals to develop themselves as they contribute to the company.


FJ: What excites and challenges you about your work?

SB: The most exciting thing is breaking new ground in material science. In the last 18-24 months, we have made key discoveries related to the inherent bioactivity of silicon nitride, as well as its antimicrobial properties. The bioactivity manifests in stem cell activation and enhanced bone formation. Uncovering the material science properties to understand why silicon nitride behaves as it does, and learning to control those properties, are very exciting parts of my work.



FJ: How do you feel the industry has changed over the past five years and where do you see it going? For example, is there anything that you were unable to do five years ago but are able to do now? And is there something that you are able to do now but might not be able to do within the next five years?

SB: The industry is focused on value, rather than marketing claims or product attributes promoted by surgeons and thought leaders who were paid money to trumpet a corporate message. Five or even more years ago, large companies could buy the message and the podium. Now, we are transitioning to a data-driven world, especially as surgeons are exposed to the risks and uncertainties of patient outcomes, and held financially responsible for such. In the next five years, the industry will continue to move toward scientifically proven outcomes, and explaining how those make a difference clinically; this is where Amedica is ahead of its time.


FJ: What challenges do you currently face along the supply chain? What are the main issues that affect you in this field (technology, regulations and customer requirements)?

SB: We are fortunate to have a material technology platform that speaks for itself, i.e. through independently adjudicated, hard science data to back up our clinical claims. The challenge is to articulate this message and attendant value to those who control the regulatory and purchasing environment. The emphasis has been on cost curtailment so far, but encouragingly, we are seeing the shift to value-driven purchase decisions. A holistic approach to purchasing new technology for patient implants addresses raw costs, but also product attributes that beneficially impact patient outcomes, and this is where Amedica is especially differentiated.   


FJ: Do you have any new technology in the pipeline that you can talk about?

SB: Our porous silicon nitride reflects a precise, highly engineered technology and is the first porous structural bioceramic with potential applications across a variety of skeletal reconstruction demands. This technology offers a bioactive substrate that promises faster and more predictable bone healing, by invoking the patient’s own reparative biological mechanisms. We are working with the FDA to introduce this technology platform in the USA.


FJ: What do you find is your most successful means of securing new business?

SB: Taking the message to surgeons is the most effective way to secure new business. Surgeons are curious, and have a solid background in science, and can critically read and examine data for themselves. Overcoming surgeon skepticism and seeing the excitement grow as they learn about our product and its attributes is one of the most rewarding parts of being at Amedica.


FJ: We’re looking forward to seeing you at Conference @ Ceramics Expo 2017. Can you tell us what you’re most looking forward to at the show?

SB: Building relationships with partners and opening the dialogue is a key goal of Amedica, at forums such as Ceramics Expo 2017. Our existing industry partnerships were built by introductions at national and international meetings, and we look forward to building even more bridges going forward. 

Dr Bal moderated the session Evaluating Clinical Data Performance of Bioceramics and Bioglasses for Orthopedic Applications on Thursday April 27, 2017.