Fotos: Ivo Mayr, zVg

A better quality of life 

Let’s get going

The ON Foun­da­tion promo­tes the deve­lo­p­ment of rege­ne­ra­tive thera­pies in the field of ortho­pae­dics. The foun­da­tion, estab­lished by the Geist­lich family, also focu­ses on inter­na­tio­nal networks in rese­arch and on trai­ning for doctors and researchers. 

The Geist­lich family set up its first foun­da­tion, the Osteo­logy Foun­da­tion, in 2003. It has made a decisive contri­bu­tion inter­na­tio­nally to the further deve­lo­p­ment of rege­ne­ra­tive denti­stry, accor­ding to Kay Horsch, Execu­tive Direc­tor of the ON Foun­da­tion. He adds: ‘Rege­ne­ra­tive medi­cine has even grea­ter poten­tial in the field of ortho­pae­dics and the many dise­a­ses of the muscu­los­ke­le­tal system. Howe­ver, it has not had much support.’ In order to fill that gap, the Geist­lich family deci­ded to estab­lish the ON Foun­da­tion in 2017.

Enab­ling pain-free movement 

The aim of ortho­re­ge­ne­ra­tion is to heal inju­ries to the muscu­los­ke­le­tal system (e.g. menis­cus or tendon damage) and improve dege­ne­ra­tive dise­a­ses (e.g. spinal inter­ver­te­bral discs or osteo­ar­thri­tis of the knee or hip joint) with the help of biology. Current solu­ti­ons frequently consist of remo­ving inju­red or dege­ne­ra­ted tissue and repla­cing it with a tita­nium prosthe­tic. The limi­ted life­span of these devices pres­ents a signi­fi­cant problem for an incre­asingly active and ageing society. Tech­no­lo­gies that enable the rege­ne­ra­tion and reten­tion of the tissues are complex and still require some rese­arch and deve­lo­p­ment before they are ready for clini­cal use. But the poten­tial to help our ageing society is enorm­ous, says Horsch, adding that these inno­va­tive treat­ment methods will one day also save health­care costs.

Driving deve­lo­p­ment

The ON Foun­da­tion wants to drive the deve­lo­p­ment of new rege­ne­ra­tive thera­pies. To this end, it brings the topic to doctors and rese­ar­chers with the aim of contri­bu­ting towards an impro­ve­ment in pati­ents’ quality of life in the long term. The foun­da­tion provi­des trai­ning and crea­tes networks between doctors and scien­tists world­wide, with fellow­ships, scho­lar­ships and educa­tio­nal grants, and also actively supports rese­arch. Horsch says: ‘We target our support at rese­arch projects that test inno­va­tive ideas at an early stage and have the poten­tial to lead to new clini­cal solutions.’ 

World­wide, diverse networks

Horsch explains the foundation’s approach: ‘To start with, we deli­bera­tely approa­ched the well-known specia­list orga­ni­sa­ti­ons that cover the larger areas within ortho­pae­dics – sports medi­cine, spinal problems, rese­arch.’ Subse­quently, support was provi­ded in the form of part­ner­ships for those groups and indi­vi­du­als inte­res­ted in the field of ortho­re­ge­ne­ra­tion. ‘In this way, a network of almost 2,500 doctors and scien­tists has sprung up very quickly,’ he says. About 50% belong to the youn­ger gene­ra­tion and more than 25% are expe­ri­en­ced experts. The ON Foun­da­tion also promo­tes rese­arch and clini­cal fellow­ships, from which valuable inter­na­tio­nal colla­bo­ra­ti­ons have alre­ady arisen.

Stra­te­gic exch­ange between foun­da­tion and foun­ding company

The Geist­lich company is itself very active in rese­arch and inter­na­tio­nal networks. Its focus is on the deve­lo­p­ment of new, marke­ta­ble proces­ses and products; it conducts inten­sive product deve­lo­p­ment and goes through labo­rious appr­oval proce­du­res. The foun­da­tion, on the other hand, promo­tes the next gene­ra­tion of doctors and scien­tists. ‘We want them to use their crea­ti­vity to deve­lop inno­va­tive approa­ches and rege­ne­ra­tive methods,’ explains Horsch. Foun­da­ti­ons such as ON can bridge the gap between acade­mic rese­arch at univer­si­ties and product deve­lo­p­ment by compa­nies, as they are better able to main­tain an open exch­ange with experts since they do not have any commer­cial goals. The foun­da­tion and its foun­ding company enjoy a rela­ti­onship based on stra­te­gic exch­ange: CEO Ralf Halbach is a member of the foundation’s Board of Trus­tees, but does not have any voting rights. ‘All stra­te­gic and opera­tio­nal decis­i­ons are made by doctors and scien­tists,’ empha­si­ses Horsch.

Incre­asing inde­pen­dence and impact

In its first few years, the ON Foun­da­tion was able to rely on both finan­cial support from the company and a service agree­ment; e.g. for office space. Today, follo­wing a successful start-up phase, the foun­da­tion is gradu­ally moving away from the foun­ding company and is opera­tio­nally comple­tely inde­pen­dent. The foun­ding company conti­nues to support the ON Foun­da­tion finan­ci­ally. ‘In order to expand the foundation’s acti­vi­ties and increase their impact, and to further increase inde­pen­dence, we are looking for more support­ers,’ says Horsch. ‘These could be either patrons or other foundations.’

Enab­ling mobility

Mobi­lity is at the core of the ON Foundation’s acti­vi­ties. ‘We help young people with inju­ries and older people to stay mobile for longer without limi­ta­ti­ons,’ says Horsch. With its focus on rege­ne­ra­tion and inter­na­tio­nal colla­bo­ra­tion, the foun­da­tion gets ortho­pae­dics moving, and new trai­ning formats and funding give extra impe­tus to rese­arch. Horsch’s top prio­rity is ‘to encou­rage people and orga­ni­sa­ti­ons to support us in order to ensure the sustainable growth of our foundation’.

Foto: zVg

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