A Spanish (Basque) SME has developed a robot to assist surgeons in spinal operations, in particular spinal fusion surgery. The company is searching for hospitals, clinics or other healthcare facilities to validate the assistant robot in field testing environments through technical cooperation agreement and thus, reach TRL9. The company is also seeking industrial partners to engage via a financial agreement to industrialize the production of the machine.
The SME was created in 2017 as a spinoff project of an industrial corporation specialized in the precision manufacturing of mechanical components/assemblies for aerospace applications. It was born as a result of various R&D projects which concluded that a precise mechanical guiding system could optimize resource utilization and avoid the risks of free-hand medical interventions aiding doctors in performing bone cuts and prothesis placement in spinal procedures. Since it was founded, the company has grown every year, from 6 people in 2018 to 18 in 2019 and now it has a staff of 21 employees of which 50% are women. The SME has been rewarded with different relevant awards. The aid of different gadgets or devices is becoming more common in the sanitary industry, in both diagnosis and treatment. In light of this trend, the SME has developed a robotic assistant to aid surgeons in spinal procedures, in particular spinal fusion surgery. Spinal fusion is a surgical technique in which one or more of the vertebrae of the spine are joined together (fused) to stop them from moving against each other. Spinal fusion can be used to treat various pathologies such as scoliosis, vertebral fractures, spinal stenosis or kyphosis. The solution developed by the company includes a novel patent-protected mechanical patient tracking system guiding the Neurosurgeon with submilimetric accuracy in the critical phase of the spinal fusion procedure: the insertion of the pedicle screws to fuse two or more vertebrae. The process in surgeries is as follows. A CT scan (computed tomography scan) is performed on the patient and the operation is planned in the software. The trajectories, entry points, etc. are defined. Then, a reference point is applied on the column and intraoperative images are taken to check that the planning done fits with the real positions. From there, the operation is performed. As the robot approaches, to know its position, the competitors use a camera system with an accuracy of 300 microns. The company, on the other hand, uses a passive arm that measures the position with an accuracy of 50 microns that feeds back into the system every millisecond. So far, preclinic trials have been carried out with both spine test plastic phantom and human corpses in two Basque hospitals, reaching TRL 6. Moreover, the SME launched two international patents in 2017, which have been renewed for Europe and other 13 countries in 2019. The company seeks hospitals, clinics or other healthcare facilities with the ability to test and validate the assistant robot in field testing environments with the objective to reach TRL9. It is envisaged that this collaborations will be undertaken via a technical cooperation agreement. The publication of scientific articles would also be valuable for the company to gain prestige. The company is also seeking a financial agreement with investment partners to fund the industrialization of the machine. The company´s vision is to start its internationalization process once they are capable of commercializing the product.
Type (e.g. company, R&D institution…), field of industry and Role of Partner Sought:
The company is exploring a range of options to support the validation, industrialization and commercialization of the technology. With the aim to reach TRL9, the company seeks hospitals, clinics or other healthcare facilities to support the validation of the technology in a field testing environment. Moreover, the partner should also publish scientific articles in terms of the validation process and the results obtained. The type of agreement for this collaboration will be through a technical cooperation agreement. The SME is also seeking financial agreement(s) with investment partners to fund the industrialization of the machine. Potential investors should be trustworthy companies with experience in transnational commercial activities. Manufacturing companies would be preferable in order to start sooner the industrialization. The company´s vision is to start its internationalization process once they are capable of commercializing the product.
Stage of Development:
Prototype available for demonstration
Comments Regarding IPR Status:
Two international patents were launched in 2017, which were renewed for Europe and other 13 countries in 2019.