Surgical Training Tool Generates Tens of Millions for Collaborating Firms
Canadian Company: Quanser Inc.
Israeli Company: Simbionix Corporation
Sector: Life sciences; Information and Communication Technologies
Imagine peering through a keyhole and having the ability to see the inner workings and organs of the human body. Laparoscopic (or keyhole) surgery is a minimally invasive technique that offers this capability. It enables a surgeon to use a laparoscope, a tiny telescope with a camera, to explore the inside of a patient’s body. The physician makes tiny incisions in the skin; inserts the instrument; and then maneuvers it while viewing the surgical site on a video screen. This approach offers many patient benefits, enabling faster recovery; reducing pain and blood loss; and lowering the risk of infection. It is used to diagnose diseases such as liver, pancreatic and colorectal cancer; assess trauma to internal organs; and monitor chronic conditions. Recognizing the importance of this innovation, a Canada- Israel R&D team aimed to help increase the quality of training in this surgical field.
Industry leaders in Canada and Israel have developed one of the most effective surgical training tools of its kind. Drawing on haptic technology3 to recreate the sense of touch, the product simulates a laparoscopy procedure, enabling a physician to visualize the surgical site and experience the physical sensation of an operation. Supported by the Ontario-Israel Collaboration Program managed by CIIRDF, this bilateral R&D project brought together:
- Quanser Inc., a Canadian world leader in the design and manufacture of advanced systems for real-time control design and implementation used in industry, education and research; and
- Simbionix Corporation (acquired by 3D Systems in July 2014), a world-leading provider of a full spectrum of innovative training and education solutions for medical professionals and the healthcare industry based in Israel.
The partners combined Simbionix software and Quanser hardware to develop this training system. CIIRDF funding catalyzed the development of a working prototype, enabling the team to refine and productize the tool. Driven to capitalize on the global market for laparoscopic devices, which is expected to reach US$8.5 billion by 2018, the partners launched the commercial product in 2009.
Over the last five years, Quanser and Simbionix have continued to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of the product. To date, the firms have sold more than 300 medical training systems, generating tens of millions in sales.
“This CIIRDF project had a significant impact on our company, catalyzing our rapid and dramatic growth. When we kicked-off the project in 2007, Quanser had 34 employees. By 2010, our revenues doubled. Our team now exceeds 60 people. CIIRDF enabled us to undertake higher-risk R&D, and develop teaching and research products that are now in use across more than 80 countries. This training tool has opened-up new worldwide academic markets for us. Our customers now include more than 3,500 leading universities across four continents. Lastly, this product has established a sustainable revenue stream for us. This is invaluable for a company like Quanser.”
Paul Gilbert, CEO, Quanser