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Hy2Care: a promising hydrogel for healthier joints

“We want people to live life again without constant pain”

Leo Smit, CEO of Hy2Care

LIOF helped Hy2Care with:

LIOF was excited from the start, says René Kessen, business developer at LIOF: “Hy2Care looks at innovation from different angles. Which makes this development even more interesting.” Leo agrees. “We are constantly looking to create added value. With all our products, we anticipate creating value along the entire healthcare system.”

About Hy2Care

Hy2Care® is a 'spin-off company' of the Tech Med Center of the University of Twente. The unique technology of the gel was developed by Professor Marcel Karperien and his team of the Developmental BioEngineering group at the University of Twente. In 2014 Marcel Karperien founded Hy2Care together with Sanne Both.

LIOF and Hy2Care

The older the wiser they say. Unfortunately aging also comes with its challenges. Bad knees. Joint pain. But this is not just for the elderly. Younger people can also experience joint pain. A bad knee due to cartilage defects, for example, as a result of a sport injury or a simple stumble or fall. Hy2Care wants to do something about that. They developed an injectable hydrogel that ensures optimal cartilage repair combating painful joints.

Leo Smit, CEO of Hy2Care, and Kshama Shree Sen, R&D manager at Hy2Care:

“Our injectable hydrogel has been developed for repair of cartilage defects in joints. The injectable hydrogel is based on natural polymers and mimics joint-tissue; it aims to protect the injured spot and helps natural cartilage repair.”

… developed from own experience

When Sanne was 15 years old she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis dissecans (OCD), a very painful cartilage disease. Her own experience motivated her to study medical biology. In 2013, Professor Marcel Karperien asked her to join his group to work on the hydrogel aiming to solve cartilage problems. Shortly after, Marcel and Sanne co-founded Hy2Care and now they work together with the team to develop the ultimate solution for cartilage repair!

More than just cartilage in the knee

Hy2Care contacted LIOF to develop the hydrogel for additional uses in orthopedic applications. They asked LIOF for support through the 'Innovation project', part of the Limburg Future Proof program. Kshama: “Our first product is currently investigated in a clinical trial for cartilage repair in the knee. Our technology allows for other uses. We would like to explore more solutions to treat orthopedic problems that people may have.”

A triple win

Kshama explains: “The patients benefit, as the gel offers an effective treatment with long-lasting effects. The pain does not return after a few years. It helps the orthopedic surgeons, as they can apply the gel easily and quickly. And the healthcare system profits from lower costs as well as a reduced socio-economic burden.”

LIOF gave us that next push

Kshama and Leo are excited about the collaboration with LIOF. “LIOF not only has been helpful in guiding us through the grant application process, they also provided us with financial resources. It gives us a great start with the next phase in the development of new applications for the hydrogel. They also informed us about relevant workshops and masterclasses. Very valuable.”

“Over time the gel degrades and is replaced by naturally formed new tissue”

How does the gel work?

Leo: “Our hydrogel enables the body to heal itself. The gel is made up of natural polymers and is biocompatible. When injected into the knee defect, the gel forms a resorbable scaffold that degrades over time. The gel is bio-adhesive in nature so it easily attaches itself to the surrounding healthy cartilage. This already prevents the cartilage from further damage. The aim is that patients can live again without constant pain. This has a huge impact on people's well-being, both physically and mentally.”

Teamwork makes the dream work!

Lastly, do Leo and Kshama have any tips for other entrepreneurs who also want to make a difference? Kshama: “We believe that a strong mindset towards your vision and goals is essential. We work by leveraging our existing skills, while developing new ones where needed. Most important? Don’t do it alone! Make sure you have a strong team: full of people with different educational backgrounds and professional experiences. The team can support each other and build on each other strengths. Teamwork makes the dream work!”


What is arthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis - or joint disease - and the leading cause of disability in adults. Patients with OA have rated pain and functional impairment. Leo: “The symptoms have a huge impact on daily live activities, as for instance even walking and standing is difficult and causes pain. This leads to social isolation and often results in both mental and physical health challenges. Including an increased chance of developing depression and anxiety. There are anti-inflammatory drugs available to treat OA, but they do not stop the actual disease progression.”

This testimonial is dated April 2022
Photography: Ron Wiersma

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