The knee joint is an organ, and when organs fail, difficulties begin. Joint failure does not kill you, but it will control your life. Joint pain and loss of function significantly lowers your quality of life and prevents you from doing the things you love. Healthy cartilage is a vital part of a healthy joint and over time, cartilage defects progress to joint degeneration and osteoarthritis (OA), which is the leading cause of disability among adults today.
Askel Healthcare is a Finnish medical technology company set to transform surgical knee cartilage treatment and recovery. The number of people suffering from painful knee osteoarthritis worldwide has more than doubled over the past three decades, with the main cause being untreated cartilage damage.
Askel’s story began over a decade ago, when a notable Finnish orthopedic surgeon and professor, Ilkka Kiviranta, established a scientific research group with the aim of developing new treatment options for knee cartilage defects based on biomaterials. The research project started in 2009 and was composed of experts in orthopedic surgery, tissue engineering, cell biology and materials science from the Universities of Helsinki and Tampere in Finland. What was particularly exceptional about this research project was that it had a real clinical goal – to find a solution for knee cartilage defects which would be universal, affordable, and comfortable for the patient with the result being the regeneration of cartilage tissue with long-term, clinically sustainable results.
Both of Askel Healthcare’s founders were a part of this research group. Dr. Virpi Muhonen (Ph.D, cell biology) is an expert in orthopedic cell biology, particularly bone and cartilage biology and tissue engineering and is our CEO. Our Co-Founder, Dr. Anne-Marie Haaparanta (Ph.D, biomedical engineering), has extensive experience in biomaterials, especially for medical applications, and as our Chief Technology Officer, she leads our R&D and production functions.
Prof. Kiviranta´s research project lasted for three years and during that time, the idea for our COPLA® product was created. The idea was further developed in two additional projects led by Dr. Muhonen, which lasted another three years. After these research projects, our founders believed that the developed product idea could make a difference to the lives of millions of people living with knee pain globally. Thus, the invention was too precious to just be a research project and Askel Healthcare was founded in 2017.
Since 2009, the product idea that led to COPLA® has produced four scientific publications and one PhD thesis. We are now in the clinical phase where the first research patients are being treated with COPLA®.