Robert Snell

Technical Director

Q How long have you been with the company and what is your role?

A I joined the company in 1995 as one of the founding team. I am responsible for overseeing all technical, development and product manufacturing activities.

Q What made you choose a career in this industry?

A I have always enjoyed science and while studying to be a Dentist I was exposed to how materials science could dramatically improve the treatments available and make a positive impact on peoples lives. Since then I have always believed that the appropriate application of science and innovation can lead to better clinical outcomes for patients.

Q What is your professional background?

A Before Ranier I worked in R&D for London International Group (now SSL) developing polyurethane materials and processes for thin film polyurethane devices (Durex condoms, Regent gloves). I became a Director of Ranier Technology Limited in 2002.

Q How did the company begin and how long has it been running?

A Ranier was founded in 1995 by Dr Geoffrey Andrews. The company applied materials science to providing materials and processes to manufacture thin film products from polyurethane as a replacement for Natural Rubber Latex. We developed a portfolio of IP in a range of medical fields, as well as a novel way of controlled manufacture of consistent polyurethanes, suitable for medical applications that we named PPM (Precision Polyurethane Manufacture). The controlled manufacture process uniquely allowed us to manufacture a moulded part with a prescribed graduation in material properties through the bulk of the part. This lead to the development of the Cadisc™ Spinal disc; an all polyurethane total disc replacement, with a stiffer annulus, with a gradual transition to a softer, central nucleus.

Q Where is the company based?

A Cambridge, UK

Q How many employees do you have?

A 32, approximately a third of which are design and development scientists or engineers working on the next generation of implantable devices.

Q Who are your customers and what products/services do you offer them?

A We work through a network of distributors to service the Neurosurgeon and Orthopaedic Spinal surgeon community, focusing, as our technology indicates, specifically in the spinal arthroplasty sector.

Q How do you keep up to date with changes in the market?

A As a company we actively participate in a number of global and local conferences to keep up with the latest information from the spine community. Personally I also find that journals and online fora are a great source of the latest market news. Speaking to surgeons and getting their perspective also provides great information in to the trends and acceptability of existing devices which often reveals opportunities for further product developments.

Q Do you have any new products on the horizon?

A Cadisc™-C is the disc arthroplasty device for the cervical spine that benefits from the materials and manufacturing technology developed for the Cadisc™-L and is due to be launched in Europe in the second half of 2011.

Q What makes you different from your competitors?

A Our approach to our design programmes and the technology we are applying makes us very different from our competitors. Also being a very focussed, small company can allow us to be more responsive to change than some larger organisations.

Q What technological innovations have you introduced?

A The key innovation that Ranier has introduced is the ability to controllably mould a three dimensional object with a graduated range of material properties. This allows the manufacture of durable devices with unique performance characteristics, and is well suited for load bearing devices. However, the technology is applicable to a multitude of applications, for medical and non medical applications.

Q How successful have you been to date?

A The clinical data from the Cadisc™-L spinal disc clinical study suggests that the device we have developed is unrivalled in delivering clinically successful disc arthroplasty. The device was launched in Europe in 2010, and continues to do well. Due to the market composition, the Cadisc™-C cervical disc replacement is likely to be more successful, in terms of number of procedures and revenue than the Lumbar device.

Q How are you committed to quality?

A We are very proud of our ISO13485 QMS. As a small device development company it is critical to our credibility that the quality of our manufactured devices, and the quality of the development that has gone in to bringing the device to market, is delivered to a standard that is as good as, or better, than much larger organisations.

Q How important is good customer relations?

A Good customer relations are very important! Not only to ensure that we maintain the success of the product, but also as good quality customer input into the design process is key to delivering the next generation of devices and surgical instrumentation systems. Often the customer can provide key design requirements that are more than just functional requirements and could be overlooked by engineers and scientists.