Santa Rosa medical technology startup Osseon Therapeutics has a deal with health care giant Johnson & Johnson to distribute Osseon's system for repairing spinal fractures.

The sales pact promises to jump-start the company's entry into the U.S. market, said Osseon CEO John Stalcup. "It's the biggest thing that's happened to us."

Osseon launched the system in the U.S. in 2009 and started sales in Europe, Canada and the United Kingdom earlier this year.

The four-year-old company has developed a steerable needle for injecting bone cement into fractured vertebrae. So far, physicians have used it to treat more than 1,000 patients, the company said.

There's a multi-billion-dollar global market for minimally-invasive treatments that address vetebral compression fractures, which are mostly caused by osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis affects about 10 million people in the U.S., and most compression fractures happen to women over 50. The problem is expected to increase in future years as the population ages.

Osseon said its technology is easier to use and less costly than other repair systems.

The Osseon technology will be distributed in the U.S. by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy Spine of Raynham, Massachusetts, the world's second largest spine company. Osseon's Osseoflex steerable needle will inject DePuy's Confidence bone cement, the two companies said last week.

The combination will "continue to enhance the precision required in vertebral body augmentation procedures and provide clinicians more choices in how they approach vertebral compression fractures," said Gary Fischetti, DePuy Spine's president.

With the distribution deal, Osseon goes from 8 national sales representatives to more than 400, Stalcup said. It will make Osseon's technology available to more patients.

"This agreement allows us to achieve greater market penetration through DePuy's extensive market presence and their highly-regarded medical device sales organization," he said.

Osseon will retain its own sales force in some parts of the U.S. and Europe.

Osseon has 61 employees and expects to add 28 more over the next nine months as it ramps production, Stalcup said.

Osseon is a spin-off of the University of Northern California, a private institute in Santa Rosa that focuses on biomedical engineering. The university has an equity stake in the startup and provides some of its research.

Osseon designs, tests and assembles its products at a headquarters in southwest Santa Rosa that once housed Arterial Vascular Engineering, the device maker acquired by Medtronic in 1999.

Minneapolis-based Medtronic also makes technology for repairing spinal fractures, but its Santa Rosa unit focuses on vascular disease.

So far, Osseon has raised $14 million in private capital, Stalcup said. Osseon doesn't release income or revenue data, but it expects to become profitable with the DePuy deal, he said.