Titan of his industry
By Joe DiGiovanni, Jour ’87
As an orthopedic surgeon for 19 years, Dr. Peter Ullrich, Arts ’84, watched patients who underwent spinal fusion surgeries suffer through long recoveries and experience less than ideal results. He did something about it.
Back then doctors inserted threaded titanium cages, and later bone-colored, plastic devices between vertebrae. Neither device worked well. Ullrich left his practice, went into research mode and developed a titanium prototype that supported the hard, outer edges of bone but had a large, easily accessible opening in the middle for bone grafts.
Now he is chief executive officer of Titan Spine, a Mequon, Wis.-company that developed a next-generation rough-surfaced implant that helps patients shorten recovery times while reducing inflammation and promoting fast bone growth.
Titan Spine is the only company to win FDA approval to manufacture medical devices with the nano-textured surface. The device was given a diagnostic code by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which gives Titan Spine an edge over much larger competitors when selling to health systems. “This product is really unique in our industry,” Ullrich says. “That’s partly why I’m on my second act. I really enjoyed my practice, but these devices were working so much better than anything else we had used. A validation of quitting a great practice is having a great product and making a big difference in peoples’ lives.”