Dentists sell implants startup for $95m
Revolutionary device can load crown right away, obviating months-long wait.
People tend to associate "technology exits" with the sale of chips or software companies, but why not dental implants? Alpha Bio Implant became the fifth major Israeli exit this year, commanding a $95 million price tag from none other than the Swiss company Nobel Biocare.
This isn't a tech stock with army geniuses backed by angels. Alpha Bio Implant was a one-man show: Dr. Ophir Fromovich, CEO, owner and dentist to the stars, not that he'll say who his clients are. His company develops and makes dental implants - think of the implant as a wall-expansion anchor that screws into your jawbone, serving as a platform for a crown and structure, which in the analogy would be the pretty picture.
The company also and trains medical personnel in handling these prosthetics. The Petah Tikva-based firm sells in more than 40 countries.
Nobel Biocare, the Zurich-based buyer is a big business, with 2,200 workers, sales offices in 34 countries and revenues of $600 million in 2006.
Fromovich founded Alpha Bio Implant in 1988. Even as a kid he loved to take things apart and upgrade them, he says. At first his fellow doctors were unappreciative of his developments, and so were the universities. But he persevered. The breakthrough came only in 2003, after another dentist, Nitzan Bichacho, contacted him about making advanced implants. The development team added dentists Ben Karmon and Yuval Jacoby, and together the four created a new type of implant, the first generation of what became called the NobelActive, the implant with the novel thread pattern. The device Web site explains that it does not "cut through bone like conventional implants," it presses through it like a corkscrew.
Patients with old-type implants had to wait three to six months for the traumatized jawbone to stabilize before the crown could be "loaded". Also, these old implants could cause bone erosion and lead the gums to recede, which is unsightly.
The new one does none of that, says Fromovich. It even suits "soft bone" situations, and causes very little injury to the bone tissue. Also, in most cases, the crown can be loaded on immediately, which is the ultimate victory for the inventors: No need to wait for months to see the patient's white smile.
"Doctors didn't accept it at first but it was a breakthrough," Fromovich says. "Later the doctors grasped that they had an implant in hand that cost like a Toyota but was worth a Ferrari. The implant became a stunning success."
Bichacho, Karmon and Jacoby all run private clinics. Dentistry sources call them the nobility of dental and oral aesthetics and prosthetics. All four can boast the cream of Israeli politics and business among their clientele. Fromovich wasn't talking and neither was Bichacho, but TheMarker has learned that his client list includes Nochi Dankner, Arcadi Gaydamak and Idan Ofer.
Bichacho is the one who led to Nobel Biocare, through contacting that company's CEO, an Israeli woman - Heliane Canepa. She challenged the Israelis to develop a breakthrough implant, based on her concept that all dental prostheses available until then were terrible. "I explained to Ophir what I thought we should develop. He agreed with me, but said he was afraid he'd be stoned if he admitted it," Bichacho says.