The Silicon Review
In recent years, the number of surgeries has grown exponentially. This has made surgical instruments to be on the cutting edge of medical technology. As surgeons come up with new procedures and techniques, surgical instrument manufacturers are also expected to come up with new devices and instruments. There are three prime factors that influence the quality of instruments: durable material, new construction design, and cost-effective manufacturing technique. Globally there are various surgical instrument manufacturers delivering excellent services, but Novuson Surgical stands out from the rest. Novuson is a pre-revenue surgical instrument manufacturer. The company develops Direct Therapeutic Ultrasound surgical instruments that are safer and more precise than current technologies on the market. Once Novuson has regulatory clearance for its technology, it will market these devices to surgical centers around the world. In addition to developing/manufacturing instruments for minimally invasive and open surgical procedures, Novuson looks to form strategic partnerships in the areas of robotic and endoscopic surgery and provide R&D expertise on integrating Novuson’s technology into those platforms.
In conversation with Dr. Stuart B. Mitchell, Founder, CEO and CSO of Novuson Surgical
Q. What was the motivation behind starting Novuson Surgical?
Novuson was conceptualized while I was a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, Center for Industrial and Medical Ultrasound. While working at the UW, I collaborated with surgeons to investigate novel uses for high-intensity focused ultrasound (i.e., therapeutic ultrasound). While conducting this research, I realized that the current surgical tools were not optimal, sometimes causing unnecessary harm to the patients and exposing the surgical team to potential hazards. I began developing therapeutic ultrasound devices integrated into surgical instruments to improve patient outcomes. My mission is now to develop surgical instruments that are safer and more precise than current technologies.
Q. What are the challenges you had to face while developing solutions for Novuson? How did you overcome them?
There are numerous challenges in developing medical devices. These challenges are everywhere, from understanding the market/industry, clinical needs, regulatory requirements, human resources, and sales channels, to funding. One of the biggest challenges was assembling the right team. Coming from an academic setting, I expected a higher degree of professionalism and integrity. Over time I developed a team that understood what it meant to “be on the bus” and understood where the bus was going and what we needed to get there. Those that weren’t team players were replaced, and now we have a core team that believes in Novuson’s mission and core values. In the other areas, we seek out professional organizations to help meet Novuson’s needs.
We are a small company, and it doesn’t behoove us to have large departments in-house when we can hire consultants for specific needs. As we grow, we will build out the departments we need. We also look to develop strategic partnerships with industry leaders.
Q. How does your solution align with the existing medical practice?
Our devices are used in a similar manner and for similar procedures as all the other energy technologies on the market. We are just safer and more precise. The only adjustment the surgeons have had to make that have tested our technology is that they usually look for smoke, burning, and charring to tell when the treatment is complete. Novuson’s technology doesn’t have any of those harmful effects, so they’ll need to adjust to the clean, smoke-free performance of Novuson’s technology.
Q. Many hospitals are focused on the financial aspect of health care and not the quality outcomes. How do you maintain the affordability of your solutions for mass adoption?
It’s unfortunate that hospitals must choose between quality outcomes and costs. Complications in surgery cost the hospital system billions of dollars every year. Our model is to provide safer, more precise instruments at or below the same cost as the competitive technologies. Since we are safer and more precise, we should presumably reduce complications and have better outcomes which in turn will reduce hospital costs. We have also designed our devices such that they can be manufactured using efficient, cost-effective methods. This allows us to keep the COGS low as we scale up to volume manufacturing.
Q. What are the areas covered by your patent? And how well the patent has contributed to your success?
Novuson has several patents that cover all aspects of our technology. We have patents that cover mechanical mechanisms, control algorithms, transducer designs, feedback algorithms, methods, and procedures. These patents contribute to our success by building a “moat” around our technology. And we have used these patents to file for patent protection in six countries that allow us to expand internationally.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
We are currently working on our validation and verification studies for the regulatory clearance of our 3mm MiniLS sealer/divider. Once we complete those and receive regulatory clearance, we will be ready to launch.
Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?
Novuson is developing a platform of surgical instruments that are safer and more precise than any other technology on the market. These are exciting times for surgeons and patients alike. Granted, most patients don’t know the type of surgical instruments that surgeons use during a procedure, but if they did, they might be concerned. Removing the potential for harm and improving precision is an exciting prospect for everyone concerned.
Meet the leader behind the success of Novuson Surgical
Dr. Stuart B. Mitchell is the Founder, CEO and CSO of Novuson Surgical, a surgical device company. He has over 20 years of experience in biomedical technology development in both industry and academia. Dr. Mitchell has expertise in medical devices, soft tissue biomechanics, and tissue engineering as well as over 25 years of business/entrepreneurial experience. He earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering, MS in Bioengineering, and PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Washington. Following his PhD, he served for 10 years as a Senior Research Engineer / Scientist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory where he developed Novuson’s core technology. Dr. Mitchell licensed the technology from the UW and founded Novuson. Prior to Novuson, Dr. Mitchell founded Biomimetic Electrospinning Technologies (BET), co-founded ACCES, Seattle’s largest Specialty and Emergency Veterinary Hospital, and he developed an active technical consulting practice (BDRD). Dr. Mitchell is passionate about improving surgical safety and precision.
Learn more about Novuson on their crowdfunding site: www.startengine.com/novuson