“There’s a crazy risk-taking in this” | Interview with YourAnastomosis
Two Hungarian teams, including YourAnastomosis, have joined the X-Europe program, which encourages the development of European deeptech startups. Read Design Terminal's interview with them.
Recently it has been revealed which startups have been selected for the first round of X-Europe, which focuses on HealthTech and BioTech areas. In addition to four organizations, Design Terminal has taken an active role in the program, which aims to boost startups to build investor and corporate relationships through training and promotion, and to connect the ecosystem across Europe. At the autumn events, 27 entrants will have the opportunity to develop their products and build a network, and amongst them there are two Hungarian teams.
The idea of YourAnastomosis, which revolutionized surgical education popped out of the heads of three doctors from Pécs, dr. Balázs Gasz, dr. Péter Varga and dr. Péter Maróti. The team was also previously a participant in the Design Terminal Mentoring Program. We sat down to talk about the beginnings, development, and plans for X-Europe with Dr. Balázs Gasz, CEO and Noémi Horváth, Business Development Manager.
How would you summarize your solution?
We want to translate surgical performance into an objective, data-driven methodology and make surgical education itself data-driven. The surgical area is produced with a 3D printer with anatomical accuracy. The model that comes in a box has as much space as the amount of room available to the doctor during surgery. Part of the model is a silicone tube very similar to the properties of human blood vessels. Once the practicing surgeon or student is done with the procedure, they can take the rubber tube simulating the vessel out of the model and send it back to us in an envelope. We digitize it using three-dimensional imaging and then perform simulated flow measurements on it to find out what the result of the work is.
How did the idea come up? In an earlier interview, you mentioned practicing on a banana peel …
There are plenty of unusual methods for surgeons to practice. This can happen with a banana peel, a chicken leg … However, real-life situations cannot be modeled properly this way. The training of surgeons is a lifelong process. That was where we began. Then we also faced the problem that while in Europe approx. 400,000 patients undergo vascular sutures during surgery, there is no subsequent feedback on these, and roughly only a decade from now can we tell how the work went with the patient.
How has your team evolved over the years?
We founded the company at the end of 2018, but before that, we had been dreaming for a year and a half about what technology could be used to implement the idea. All elements are constantly evolving. So is the team. In the problem-solving phase, medical founders started working for us, and then engineers, flow engineers, and 3D modelers joined us. Eventually, we found those who deal with business development, sales, marketing, and branding. Although the team is extremely diverse, everyone is looking towards one goal. It feels really good that people from different fields think together and translate problems and suggestions into each other’s languages. This triggers the energies. There’s probably a crazy risk-taking in this, but also a shared vision, a common goal.
How do you think innovative ideas being acknowledged in healthcare? Do thinkers have to break down walls to get recognition?
Adapting a similarly innovative project is indeed more difficult, time-consuming, as even doctors have not encountered this kind of technique and education. It is a common experience that young surgeons and residents who are now starting to perform vascular sutures are more enthusiastic about adapting innovations with a more curious approach. Of course, this does not mean that experienced vascular surgeons would not be happy with the solution.
You were also able to showcase the idea in Los Angeles in November last year. What feedback and experiences did you get?
We attended a conference for vascular surgeons and tried to spread the word about the product. It was an exciting challenge, we received good feedback, and we also had the opportunity to expand our network of contacts. In the meantime, we have realized that we also need to consider what geographical area we are focusing on the product. This is now roughly Europe, especially Germany. We also rethought the product from a business point of view. It’s also a learning process to find the focus you have the capacity to do.
What do you expect from the X-Europe program?
Learning, networking. These two are necessary for the survival and development of a startup. New approaches need to be openly embraced, and as X-Europe is an international, Europe-wide program, this will be possible. We consider it important to adapt, to understand users and hospitals as much as possible, and even to think in an international volume, even know the attitudes of governments. The more opinions and perspectives we hear, the more diverse we can be with our solution.
What are your further plans with the product?
It is never a finished product – and I know it sounds like a cliché. Since this is a custom made thing, in our case it really isn’t. We design it individually for each situation. We have to take unique requests into consideration because someone could be more interested in the neck than in the hand area. Also, the basic concept and product can be used in several health care areas. But this thought is for the future.
Are you affected by the coronavirus situation?
We are, although it did not change our basic concept, it only speeded up the processes. In the very beginning, we were present in person at the courses, as we would have been in March, but due to the situation, we transferred the courses to the online space. Our ultimate goal anyway was to make the entire course work online, because that way it could stay sustainable.
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