In talking about his company’s newly launched MicroCam laparoscopic imaging platform, Sanovas CEO Larry Gerrans tells a story of innovation and, perhaps more importantly, of evolution.
In an interview with MassDevice.com, Gerrans described the "plug-&-play" MicroCam technology in terms of its ancestry in some of Sanovas’ earliest technologies, speculating that the game-changing platform will help make way for the next big shift in minimally invasive procedures: Natural orifice surgery.
Sanovas’ newly launched MicroCam aims to replace endoscopy carts with a tiny camera and fiberoptic wiring system, aiming to deliver the same imaging quality of a 5mm or 10mm laparoscope or bronchoscope – taking just a fraction of the space from the operating room (and the hospital’s budget) in the process. Sanovas leveraged its considerable history, hailing "back to the inception of endoscopic imaging," to develop a platform Gerrans calls "far less costly than current systems, but with greater utility."
"Effectively, what we’ve done is taken a look at the industry and taken a look at the way imaging is done and have decided to evolve the current standard of care," he told us. "The MicroCam can be used as an arthroscope, it can be used an a laparoscope, it can be used as a flexible endoscope, it can be used in a semi-rigid construct for endobronchial intubation applications, for instance."
"The way we view this technology is to effectively replace the laparoscope with a variety of instruments that provide the doctor with imaging views and angles that he wants to see," he added.
The MicroCam is a tiny camera (3mm in diameter and 7.5 mm long), with a 1 mm wiring harness and a 6-inch circuit board. The system is topped off with a fiberoptic cable that can plug into nearly any OR monitor and software to "allow you to see as many MicroCams in that operating environment as you can put in it" without cluttering up an often-crowded surgical suite, Gerrans said.
The technology could also represent a cost-savings of up to 90% for hospitals paying acquisition and maintenance cost for traditional systems, he added. Sanovas has received "rapid enthusiasm" about the device and hopes to see the 1st MicroCams in hospitals in Q4 2013, or in 2014 at the latest.
"[Providers] will no longer have to pay $50,000-$130,000 for an endoscopic camera system; they can pay $10,000 for Sanovas’ micro-camera technology," he said. "These hospitals spend upwards of $200,000 a year or more for their repair and maintenance of endoscopic camera technology – those are redundant costs that this technology will eliminate."
The potentially disruptive technology also helps satisfy Gerrans’ desire to bring to healthcare some of the fast-paced technology leaps seen in consumer technologies.
"This relates to Moore’s Law, from semiconductor technology, wherein semiconductor technology is going to get twice as fast and cost half as much every 2 years," Gerrans explained. "That law has not yet made its way to healthcare in the form of technology we provide to our providers. We see the change in paradigm of creating small, portable devices that have high capability, high utility, that can be used anywhere in an operative setting."
But it’s not just about saving money or launching sleek new technologies for Gerrans, who co-founded Sanovas in 2010. The MicroCam platform is about opening the door for a different approach to surgery.
"The prospects for this technology are innumerable, so you kind of get the mind wandering about what the future of medicine is going to look like," Gerrans told us. "What I can tell you is that 1 of our prognostications is that the future of surgery will no longer be through incisions – we see surgery being done through natural orifices."
The Sanovas technology has the potential to be ground-breaking, he said, because it’s portable and plays nicely with other devices. Sanovas plans to partner with other medical device companies to integrate the MicroCam into existing surgical instruments, although Gerrans was unable to divulge the details of any partnerships due to confidentiality agreements.
"If you’re an endoscopic imaging company that has an existing system that you sell or you have instruments you would like to have an eyeball on, we can put our MicroCam onto that instrument and plug it into the same monitor," he said. "There are 100s of technology companies that have therapy-enabling solutions for endoscopic applications. Those companies will certainly benefit from being able to put eyeballs on their instrumentation."
The MicroCam platform also has the potential to bring minimally invasive procedures to rural settings and emerging markets that may not have the resources to purchase more expensive cart-based endoscopic systems, or in conditions where the technology must be portable in order to reach the patient in a non-OR setting.
"When you view this technology in terms of its capability, its capability is to manifestly change the way endoscopic camera systems are used and afforded," Gerrans said. "We’re obviously very excited about the development and we think this is a fundamental change to minimally invasive surgery."
Gerrans couldn’t help but speculate about that future and the role that the MicroCam and other coming technologies may play in changing the nature of minimally invasive procedures. Natural orifice surgery, which involves initial entry to the body via a natural opening such as the bladder, the mouth or the colon, is not a new idea, but it’s not yet widespread in practice.
"The ability to perform surgery through natural orifices will only provide you with a single track," Gerrans said. "You only have 1 approach, so you need to create new technologies that operate in a linear fashion."
"This is what we believe is an enabling technology to the growth of natural orifice surgery, it really is," he added. "It’s an enabling technology to the growth and expansion of natural orifice surgery."