Transparent communication and high-tech improvements highlight a polymer technology designed to increase patient safety and prolong the functional life of medical devices derived from it.
Cleveland-based Lubrizol Life Science Health expanded its partnership in May with B. Braun, an international medical technology and pharmaceutical company, to produce a patented thermoplastic urethane design to provide a more reliable device that works inside of a patient with health needs, according to Darren Tuel, LLS Health senior director of strategic marketing.
LLS Health is known for manufacturing and distributing its TPUs for a wide variety of products in health care and other industries. Some of its medical polymers are highlighted on the company's website.
"One of the issues of adding a medical device inside someone's body for a long time is that when you introduce that foreign [object] there can be a reaction to make it less usable," Tuel said. "The goal with this is to lessen the impact of someone having this type of reaction."
This patented TPU also is made to "deliver breakthrough solutions and effective technologies aimed at improving patient safety and clinical outcomes," Tuel added.
LLS Health and B. Braun have had a longstanding relationship over the years, but this current effort was born from a need to better relate to each other's goals and strategic focus, Tuel said.
"Safe and efficient new products are not only based on intelligent design, but also on innovative materials," Meinrad Lugan, a B. Braun board member, said in a statement. "With Lubrizol Life Science, we found a strategic partner with unmatched experience and know-how who will support us to develop the next generation of medical devices optimizing treatment efficiency and effectiveness as well as patient safety."
While there are elements of this partnership, particularly as it relates to product specifics that neither company will release publicly, there is an enhanced transparency between the two partners relating to manufacturing processes, use of technology and more. It has made for a more productive working relationship and a more seamless manufacturing process, the companies said.
"We created this [TPU] material knowing their goals and markets, and the same can be said for [B. Braun]," Tuel said.
The partnership also has included the ability for both parties to leverage their capabilities in medical device design and manufacturing, with expertise in biocompatible polymer science.
Unlike traditional material providers, Lubrizol began transitioning from a material science company to one that is more focused on design and device manufacturing capabilities a few years ago. These days, both speed to market and supply chain consolidation are among the more important traits for a polymer manufacturer, Tuel said.
Supply chain issues have been a concern for many manufacturers since the pandemic began in earnest in March 2020, although LLS Health feels its longstanding relationship with material providers can help. Added redundancy at global manufacturing sites and maintaining multiple global distributors also can reduce some of the supply chain concerns that could have an adverse effect on deliverability.
"Any supply chain issues can be improved with more dialogue," Tuel said. "It's something we are aware of but have been able to work through."
Within the health care field, specifically with medical devices, the proof of value for the patented TPU's effectiveness will come from pre-clinical work with data being validated in a lab setting using raw materials. So far, the pre-clinical performance of this material has worked well, with the hope that measurable improvements will be proven for a high percentage of patients.
As more testing is done, Tuel said, the belief is that there will be significant improvements in both patient safety for these inserted medical devices, along with improved durability of the devices themselves. There is risk involved when investing in a medical device component, but Lubrizol has been willing to deviate from its standard product lines to create polymer or other materials needed for custom products for several years. This is possible in part because of the numerous acquisitions made by the company over the years, allowing it to increase the versatility of its offerings.
Lubrizol announced plans to invest $80 million in TPU capacity expansions at sites in North America, Europe and Asia back in March 2018. The firm has long been a major producer of TPUs in a variety of industries that also include footwear, consumer product and transportation.
Founded in 1928, Lubrizol owns and operates more than 100 manufacturing facilities, sales and technical offices around the world and has approximately 8,800 employees. B. Braun employs more than 64,000 in 64 countries to help improve processes in hospitals and medical practices and increase safety for patients, doctors and nursing staff.