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Novel Bone Fixation System Receives University of Utah Breakthrough of the Year Award

Lisi Merkley, PIVOT Center


The Bone Bolt System, a novel implant system for fixing bone fractures, received the Breakthrough of the Year award at the inaugural University of Utah Innovation Awards on Monday, Oct. 2. The ceremony celebrated U researchers who are going above and beyond to translate their research into solutions to today’s problems.

In addition to honoring the Bone Bolt System, University of Utah researchers celebrated other feats of innovation on Monday, including the 40 patents granted to the U in fiscal year 2023, seven additional recipients of the Innovation Awards, and more.

The Breakthrough of the Year Award recognizes a university invention or discovery that has created a meaningful difference in society. This year’s recipient, the Bone Bolt System, is an innovative medical device that is the result of collaborations among clinical faculty, trainees and research groups at the U. The achievement represents the importance of translating research out of the academic lab and into the hands of clinicians for real world impact.

The system is a comprehensive set of implants of various lengths and diameters, along with associated surgical instruments and sterilization trays. The implants are used to treat challenging bone fractures, such as pelvic fractures and fractures of the long bones in the arm and leg.

Wade Fallin, Colin Gregersen and Justin Haller, MD, at the Orthopaedic Innovation Center receiving the University of Utah Breakthrough of the Year award.
Wade Fallin, Colin Gregersen and Justin Haller, MD, at the Orthopaedic Innovation Center receiving the University of Utah Breakthrough of the Year award.

The team—led by Wade Fallin, Colin Gregersen and Justin Haller, M.D., of the Orthopaedic Innovation Center—took the care provider's perspective into consideration in conjunction with clinical outcomes throughout the development process, which will facilitate rapid adoption by clinicians. The system also received FDA 510(k) clearance for sale and marketing in the United States in July, a first in the University of Utah's history.

Other Innovation Awards recipients have similarly contributed to the U’s culture of innovation and research while also striving to solve today’s problems in and out of the lab. Lifetime Achievement recipient Gregory Hageman from the John A. Moran Eye Center has studied age-related macular degeneration for over 30 years, contributing to countless therapeutic candidates for the disease.

On the other end of the spectrum, the university honored undergraduate student James Walker, graduate student Jack Silcox and early-career faculty member Mei Yee Koh who have exhibited the same drive to benefit society right out of the gate. Koh has even started a company based on her research into therapies for kidney cancer. Advancement of EDI in Research award recipient Keke Fairfax was honored for her mentorship of future innovators from underrepresented communities while also conducting research and leading the charge for equity, diversity and inclusion in the pathology department.

Like Koh, the recipients of the Innovator of the Year—Jacob George—and Innovation Impact—Kevin Hicks and Jared Rutter—have successfully translated their groundbreaking research into marketable technologies. George has developed biologically inspired artificial intelligence and brain-machine interfaces that allow patients to regain their independence. Rutter and Hicks developed the MIDAS platform that offers scientists insights into never-before-seen interactions between environmental cues and cell metabolism and opens the door to better drug discovery.

Learn more about the award winners.

The Innovation Awards is an annual event presented by the U’s PIVOT Center.