The 2013 North American Spine Society (NASS) Annual Meeting has come and gone in New Orleans. Nestled beneath the Pontchartrain Expressway overpasses, the large exhibition floor has been packed full of product displays and demos for three days showcasing the industry's latest in spinal implants, instruments, and biologics.

I was lucky enough to attend this year's conference?I was primarily interested in the biologics side of the showcase and academic discussion.

The biggest suprise of conference came early, courtesy of large NASS supporter and enormous spine tech company, Medtronic. Their booth generated significant buzz throughout the conference, not by virtue of what was on display, but by what was not on display. There was not a device to seen, nor a single sales rep or marketing manager available to discuss any of the company's offerings. Instead, just small roundtables, chic furnishings and an armada of personnel from their Office of Medical Affairs trained and authorized to hold one-on-one discussions with surgeons regarding scientific and clinical data related to their spine products.

The elephant in the empty booth, of course, is Medtronic's INFUSE Bone Graft. Found throughout the space was a letter commenting on the intense debate and controversy that has surrounded the product for the last few years, and precipitated such a decision from the company. The strongly worded letter reaffirmed Medtronic's desire to refocus the conversation, emphasizing a commitment to science, transparency, and education.

Such a repurposing of Medtronic's exhibit was bold, thoughtful, and I believe successful at containing any potentially negative conversation about the brand to just one product. The decision certainly generated a fair bit of discussion through the days and nights of NASS 2013.

Off of the floor, in the symposium and session halls, there was also a fair bit of focus on INFUSE in varying capacities. A retrospective lecture covered lessons learned from the Yale Open Data Access project, and numerous paper presentations outlined investigations of potential alternatives to the growth factor therapy?including multipotent stem cells, oxysterols, and insulin-mimectics for bone fusion appliations.

To my eye, the biologics market is among the most interesting and innovative areas in orthopedics. Seeing so much enthusiasm for the topic as well as the time and capital spent in this space was a fantastic experience. I'm already looking forward to next year in San Francisco.

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