50 Best Companies to Watch 2021
As technology is improving, the healthcare sector is being flooded by new medical equipments. However, it is essential to maintain equipment efficiency and quality to provide the best medical assistance. Equipment efficiency does not only provide high-quality patient care but also saves cost. ErgoSuture is a medical device company with innovative suturing solutions for closing various patient tissue layers. The company was founded by ErgoSurgical Group, a medical device research boutique, which partners with subject matter experts to develop surgical solutions that help improve suturing safety, speed, and versatility. We interviewed the founders of the company to know more about the products. Here are a few excerpts of the interview:
Q. What motivated you to reinvent suturing methods/technology?
The Drive'N Roll is the brainchild of Dr. Luis Almodovar, a neurosurgeon-oncologist. Luis is left-handed, which meant dealing with particular circumstances when working with instruments that have handedness like needle drivers and scissors. As a surgical intern, when tasked with being proficient at suturing, Luis had to study the suturing steps to adapt his hand movements to a right-handed needle driver. One day, as Luis was eating sushi, he had his eureka moment while holding a grain of rice with two round chopsticks. He then realized he could extrapolate this concept to an instrument capable of handling a needle and gliding it through tissues by rotating the rollers, decreasing the number of steps used during the suturing process. The Drive'N Roll was born out of necessity, coupled with a very creative mind.
Q. How will your solutions affect the healthcare costs?
Contrary to the current trend of developing hyper-specialized suturing solutions, the Drive'N Roll will target the non-expert. It provides surgeons with one technology platform that uses the same suturing technique across all surgical platforms. We designed the Drive'N Roll to look, feel and behave like a traditional needle driver, but with advanced suturing systems capabilities. It builds on the surgeons' muscle memory, training and experience, further shortening the learning curve. In its initial iteration, the Drive'N Roll will enhance surgeons' capabilities when challenged with suturing in tight spaces, which often forces the surgeon to convert the procedure to an open surgery rather than operating laparoscopically. They also increasingly upgrade to a robot-assisted platform when available. It is the case for most surgeons since laparoscopic suturing remains challenging, as confirmed by recent market surveys, despite the training curriculum available to date.
Its versatility will also allow institutions to set a new standard of care for suturing across their surgical platforms, contributing to more efficient cost management. Also, the Drive'N Roll will be sold below the cost of current advanced suturing systems in the market today.
Q. How is your advanced suturing instrument different from traditional methods used for wound closure?
While the Drive'N Roll can be used as a traditional needle driver, the surgeon only needs to clamp down on the needle and proceed as they would typically do with any traditional needle driver. It takes away the mental effort and pain when manipulating a needle in minimally invasive surgery. The surgeon can readily position the needle for the next suture point by moving the needle forward or backward using the rollers; hence, the surgeon doesn't need to release and grasp the needle multiple times to find the correct position. They will do so while using their preferred needles if they choose to.
Q. What are the challenges you had to face while developing your solutions? How did you overcome them?
Suturing is an often-ignored part of the surgical process. Furthermore, novel advanced suturing systems have not fulfilled the unmet needs in the marketplace. As a consequence, investors have grown skeptical or lost interest altogether. Consequently, convincing investors has been more challenging than expected.
Our response has been to go back to our source, the surgeons. Many Surgeons have contributed to our technology and device; some have also become our seed investors, allowing us to go from proof of concept to prototype stage and eventually up to the product we plan on launching in 2022. Hence, "For Surgeons, By Surgeons" is more than a tagline. It is who we are.
Q. Specialized medical instruments often come with an expensive price tag. How will you achieve affordability and profitability?
Making a device that will be familiar to surgeons while offering advanced suturing capabilities was our first objective. Our next objective was to make the technology affordable inside and outside the US. We believe that we have achieved this goal by designing a modular device: it is composed of a handle that can be used for over two hundred surgeries and a distal end usable for five surgeries on average, depending on the applications. We have also worked to create a technology adaptable to different handle types and interfaces to be used across all surgical platforms, including robot-assisted platforms, de facto adapting to institutions' needs and costs constraints, and surgeons' proficiency and preferences.
Q. Many hospitals are focused on the financial aspect of health care and not the quality of outcomes. How viable is your instrument for mass adoption?
Like many organizations in a free market setting, hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers aim to deliver the best service possible to their customers within the cost constraints they have to operate within. Hospitals' health care costs structure is somewhat complex because of the broad range of solutions they have to offer to meet patients' needs, coupled with a diverse set of payors. It is customary to develop medical solutions to hard-to-crack problems, which are less sensitive to price pressure. At ErgoSuture, our goal is different. We intend to make average surgeons better and good surgeons great at what they do. We focus on generating value for hospitals and other surgical centers by improving their overall efficiency in the operating room. We do this by delivering cost-effective suturing solutions readily adaptable to each institution and surgeon's needs. In other words, we aim to raise the ceiling of hospitals' capabilities to expand access to surgical care.
Q. Tell us about your training module for up-skilling healthcare workers to use your device?
When referring to the time required for a surgeon to acclimatize with the Drive'N Roll, we estimate the learning curve to be anywhere between 10 minutes to half an hour. On the other hand, if the question is about the time required to find out how much faster one can suture or how much more a surgeon can do, then the jury is still out, and we will know as the product gets broadly adopted by surgeons worldwide. Early tests have shown the Drive'N Roll can cut suturing time by at least 20%.
Meet the founders
Claude Nogard is a Global Marketing Strategy Expert with 25 years of experience in both US and international markets, in pharmaceutical (Merck, Novartis), MedTech (ErgoSurgical), and advisory (cofounder Life Science Praxis). Over the past five years, he co-founded three companies: ErgoSurgical, Dynamic Suture, DBA Ergosuture, and ValSculp. All these ventures were born from the understanding that technology has a key role in closing the global burden gap in diseases treatable by surgery. They aim first and foremost to deliver comprehensive and accessible surgical solutions worldwide.
Luis Almodovar is a neurosurgeon-oncologist and inventor of the Drive'N Roll. He co-founded ErgoSurgical Group, Dynamis Suture DBA ErgoSuture, and ValSculp. His creativity, passion, and resilience has led to Ergosurgical's expansive patent portfolio around the Drive'N Roll technology and SATAR. He is a member of the 2017-2018 Class of the AAAS-Lemelson Foundation Invention Ambassadors - a program with the vision to "showcase the human face of inventors to inspire, inform and influence thought leaders and global community." becoming the first-ever Hispanic selected into the program.