Over the past seven years, Cagenix Inc. has grown from a research and development startup to a successful maker of new devices for dental implants that are sold to dentists and dental labs across the country.

The company, at 795 Ridge Lake Blvd., was founded in 2005 by Dr. Carl Schulter, a prosthodontist who has practiced in the Memphis area for more than two decades. He founded the company along with his son Drew Schulter, Dr. Denis J. DiAngelo and Earl Yanase.

Schulter is still a practicing prosthodontist and serves on the company’s board of directors.

Cagenix grew out of Schulter’s desire to improve his work. As a specialty dentist focused on restorative cases, Schulter became interested in providing superstructures for patients with multiple dental implants that would offer an improved look cosmetically while restoring chewing function.

“The beginning years were more research and development around different technologies and ways to treat his patients,” said Cagenix CEODaryl Newman.

Cagenix was originally funded through investments from friends and family. But in late 2008, the company approached several angel and seed investors.

One of those investors was Innova, a Memphis-based pre-seed, seed and early-stage investor focused on bioscience, technology and AgBio companies.

Innova expressed interest in investing, and suggested Cagenix bring Newman – whose background is in technology and business management – on board to run the company.

In addition to venture capital, Innova provides resources to help companies grow, connecting them with established corporations for licensing, buy-outs or further investments, and linking companies with experienced management to accelerate the development of new products.

With the help of Innova, Cagenix evolved from a research and development company with a handful of employees into a company that manufactures dental framework and sells its products to dentists – primarily prosthodontists – across the country.

Dental implants are the primary tools used in restorative therapy, and Cagenix’s products integrate dental implants with dentures.

Implants are placed into the patient’s bones and upper or lower jaw, and a titanium dental framework is then screwed into the implants.

“Around that, in some of the restorations, is acrylic, and denture teeth are put on and it looks like a denture, so it’s literally screwed into those implants in the mouth and it doesn’t come out at night,” Newman said.

For patients, it’s more comfortable than dentures and makes eating easier.

Because fit is critical; implants integrate into the bone, as they would with an artificial knee or hip joint. If the framework doesn’t fit properly, the implant will likely loosen over time. For that reason, framework is customized for each patient using computer-aided design software.

Newman said it’s essential for Cagenix staff to become part of the patient’s treatment team.

“To treat a patient with this kind of restoration, you’ve got an oral surgeon that places the implants, a lab that processes the restoration, and you’ve got to have someone that manufactures the titanium framework,” Newman said. “The team coordinates its plans together to deliver the right restoration to the patient in the right way.”

The AccuFrame, a framework that acts as a substructure for multiple implant-based prostheses, is Cagenix’s signature product. Milled from a single piece of titanium alloy for strength, the company says AccuFrame provides the best fit with far better results than traditional casting processes.

“We’ve got a number of other patents that (Schulter) holds and that others hold that are part of the development team’s work,” Newman said. “But the primary product and service that Cagenix provides today is the AccuFrame and AccuFrame Plus dental frameworks.”

Over the past six months, the company’s new pink version of AccuFrame Plus has become increasingly in demand. That product, developed in early 2011, features titanium wrapped in pink acrylic to resemble the color of patients’ gums.

“We developed a way to treat the titanium and turn the outer layer pink, which masks itself underneath the acrylic,” Newman said.

“From an innovative perspective, it’s one of the things we’ve come out with that no one in the marketplace has today.”

In fact, the company has just learned that the pink version of AccuFrame Plus was named Best Product of 2011 by Dental Lab Products.

Newman said Cagenix has grown “tenfold since the early days.” The company has hired a number of new employees and expects to double its sales volume again in 2012.

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