Formus Labs: Better joint replacement planning

Initiative type:
Med Tech
UniServices Contact:


Everyone knows someone who’s had hip or knee replacement surgery.

Despite how common they are, these surgeries are not straightforward, with one in five patients dissatisfied with the outcome of their surgery and one in ten requiring revision surgery due to implant failure.

Because each patient’s body is different, each patient needs their replacement joints to be sized and positioned differently. However, current surgery planning relies on 2D X-rays and manual manipulation by surgeons, with existing planning software not accounting for the biomechanics of the joint.

Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of ƵProfessor Thor Besier and alumnus Ju Zhang, PhD, wanted to make orthopaedic surgery planning better and easier.

Revolutionising pre-operative planning

Besier and Zhang drew on their research at the ƵBioengineering Institute to create a platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D modelling to help surgeons select the right replacement joint and plan where to place it for each individual patient. To commercialise the tool, they spun out a company, Formus Labs, in 2016.

Formus’s software is the world’s first automated 3D planner for joint replacement surgeries. It combines medical imaging data with biomechanical simulation to create a 3D model of a patient’s joint, then selects and places implants that restore the native biomechanics. Surgeons can interact with the 3D model to adjust the plan according to their expertise and preferences. It also speeds up surgery planning from weeks to hours.

“Our ageing and increasingly overweight population is leading to an epidemic of joint disease,” says Besier. “Our software improves patient outcomes by selecting implants that best match the anatomy and biomechanics of an individual from the get-go.”

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thor besier
“Our software improves patient outcomes by selecting implants that best match the anatomy and biomechanics of an individual from the get-go.”
Professor Thor Besier,
Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer

“Our goal is to make orthopaedic surgery as simple as it can be by arming surgeons with the latest cutting-edge technology so every joint replacement has a Formus plan that reduces the need for revisions, instils confidence, and facilitates better outcomes for patients, at a lower cost,” says Zhang.

“The Formus platform helps showcase all available options, assisting with decision-making on the best possible reconstruction for the patient,” says Dr David Liu, an Australian consultant orthopaedic surgeon, in a .

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Ju Zhang, Formus Labs CEO



UniServices licensed Formus’s foundational IP and invested in its first capital raise. Formus also received assistance from Tātaki ƵUnlimited to access research and development funding through Callaghan Innovation, the New Zealand government’s innovation agency.

In 2022, Formus Labs raised US$5 million in a round led by GD1, with participation from Punakaiki Fund, Icehouse Ventures, Pacific Channel, and Flying Kiwis. The company is using the funds to accelerate product development and its expansion into the U.S.

The company has launched its hip surgery planning tool in Australia and New Zealand and is rapidly expanding its team as it investigates international markets for global expansion.

It has also announced a partnership with Zimmer Biomet, a leading medical device manufacturer, to co-develop and commercialise Formus Hip.

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