“I wanted to open an ice cream shop,” Giuseppe Perale, Executive Vice President and founder of IBI (an acronym for Industrie Biomediche Insubri), amusedly replies when asked how he chose to focus his efforts on research, development and production of medical devices for living tissue engineering. And he goes on to say that he graduated from the Politecnico di Milano in Biomedical Engineering, at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Milan, immediately directing his commitment to the new frontiers of regenerative medicine.
The following years were a string of important academic experiences in London, Stockholm and Milan, before obtaining the role of Full Professor of Industrial Bioengineering at SUPSI and, from 2019, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at the newly founded Faculty of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Lugano.
Without ever betraying his vocation to research and teaching, Giuseppe Perale nevertheless wants to put into practice his studies on biomaterials. Together with his partner Gianni Pertici, both descendants of entrepreneurial families, in 2007 while in a pub in London and wondering about their future job prospects, they decided to start a company capable of producing bone prostheses of natural origin. “When I wanted to explain to my daughter what we do, I told her that we make bone replacement parts. You could almost say Lego ‘bricks’ to replace damaged parts of the human body. Said instead in more scientific terms, we have created an innovative bone substitute developed specifically, primarily, for bone regeneration in oral and maxillofacial reconstructive surgery. A product that mimics human bone, strong, resistant to deformation and surgical fixation, originating from the combination of natural mineral bone structures with bioactive polymers. This novel biomaterial assembly concept allows the patient’s cells to grow rapidly and efficiently while its biopolymers degrade, providing seamless integration and osteogenesis.”
Back in Switzerland, Perale and Portici took over an existing small company, recapitalized it and transformed it, equipping a room as a laboratory (the so-called Garage belonging to the best tradition of American start-ups) and entered the world of bone regeneration, a sector that still offered ample space for new initiatives. The entrepreneurial adventure really starts in autumn 2011 and the company, renamed IBI SA, receives the first investments and also the necessary European certifications. In the early stages of development it also obtained funding from TiVenture, the public venture capital fund that supports several particularly innovative start-ups in Ticino. The presence of Lorenzo Leoni on the company’s board is also decisive. Thanks to the work of about twenty collaborators, IBI is now present with its products in about thirty countries around the world and the company is growing at a steady pace. Its materials, capable of supporting the regrowth of bone tissue, are used on a large scale by orthopedic surgeons and dentists, while other products are supplied on a “tailor-made” basis. The latter, particularly advanced, although more niche, are designed for each individual patient through direct collaboration with major hospitals. IBI’s most innovative product, still in the experimental phase, is a bone “regenerator”, designed for applications in pediatric oncology. In practice, to reconstruct the bone tissue removed from children affected by tumors, often very aggressive. The goal is to create a bone substitute that will then grow with the child without the need to subject the young patient to numerous subsequent operations to “follow” the natural lengthening of the skeleton. IBI is one of the few companies to have attempted this approach and the preclinical and clinical results collected so far are very encouraging.
“IBI – concludes Giuseppe Perale – is a company that can now be said to have emerged from the start-up phase to become a full member of the biomedical district that represents one of the most dynamic economic realities in Ticino. The next challenge is to find and set up adequate space to be allocated to the production realities of this sector, particularly innovative and with high added value”.
This article is translated from Italian to English, you can find the original version on “Ticino Welcome 72 – Dec/Feb 2022” at the following link