A Costa Rican company just went public and is set to disrupt an outdated breast implant industry

Spencer Platt/Getty
  • Costa Rica-based company Establishment Labs, the maker of Motiva breast implants, went public last week.
  • It was the first IPO for the aesthetics sector in 2018, and the first breast aesthetics public offering in more than three years.
  • The company is trying to disrupt an industry dominated by just three US players: J&J, Allergan, and Sientra.
  • The funding from the initial public offering will help the company advance through FDA clinical trials.

Breast augmentation surgeries are the most popular plastic surgery procedures in the world, but there has been little innovation in years.

A Costa-Rican company called Establishment Labs hopes to change that by bringing an updated breast implant into the US market.

Founded in 2004 by Juan José Chacón-Quirós, who grew up in a family full of plastic surgeons, the medical technology company went public on the Nasdaq last Thursday.

The funding it receives through the public offering will fund the FDA clinical trial process for its Motiva silicone breast implants. Establishment Labs will finish enrolling for its clinical trials in 2019.

This will be the first IPO for the aesthetics sector in 2018, and the first breast aesthetics public offering in more than three years.

“There has been no innovation in this area in a long time,” said Chacón-Quirós in an interview. “I wanted to create a product that will be updated with technology from this century.”

The global breast implants market size was valued at $US1.2 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $US2 billion by 2025. Of that market, silicone implants held the largest market share over alternatives like saline implants. Despite saline implants being safer, silicone are the more popular option due to their natural feel. Research into using other materials like soybean oil for implants has been unsuccessful.

It’s on course to disrupt an industry dominated by just three US players: Johnson and Johnson, Allergan, and Sientra.

Motiva implants have been available in Latin American and European markets since 2010, and has since expanded to 60 countries.

“We reimagined breast implants with updated chemistry and mechanical properties,” said Chacón-Quirós. A specialised gel used to make the implant allows it to mimic a more natural feel. The implant is nested under the mammary gland in the breast, and therefore doesn’t interfere with normal functions like breastfeeding or breast screening.

In a study outside the US and not affiliated with the FDA trial published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal in 2017, it was found that compared to traditional silicone implants, Motiva implants had lower rates of complications after three years, suggesting that it is safe and durable.

Women are becoming more active, said Chacón-Quirós, and Establishment Labs is updating the breast augmentation industry to accommodate this shift.

The implants sell for a higher price than other options in the market, and is also available to insurers and public health systems in some of the markets they operate in.

Of the 1.8 million cosmetic surgical procedures performed in the US in 2017, there were roughly 300,000 breast augmentation procedures, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. According to the FDA, approximately 5 to 10 million women worldwide have breast implants.

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