In the fourth episode of The Healthtech VC, Dr. Fiona Pathiraja is joined by Dr. Tom Carrell, vascular surgeon and co-founder of Cydar Medical – a startup developing an AI satellite navigation system for vascular surgical procedures.
Tom and co-founder Graeme Penny, an Imaging Scientist at King’s College London, both recognised the need for better visibility of anatomy during endovascular surgery and embarked on an ‘accidental’ journey together to build Cydar, which started life as a hospital research project and evolved into a fully-fledged commercial business.
An accidental journey
In 2012, Tom and Graeme began to transform image processing research into the world’s first cloud-based, automated 3D maps to guide surgeons during procedures. The standard approach to guidance during keyhole surgery uses lower level, black and white, 2D x-ray. This sacrifices detail which results in significant variability in patient outcomes between countries, hospitals and even teams. Now, Cydar software utilises live x-ray imaging and references bone anatomy from the patient’s own pre-op CT scan to create a map for the surgeon to use live in the procedure. Through a series of clinical trials, Cydar’s technology has been shown to not only reduce the duration of endovascular interventions by 30-60 mins but also decreases radiation exposure by 50%. Importantly, Cydar EV can be seamlessly integrated in operating rooms without additional X-rays, calibration or manual registration steps. This means that the AI powered imaging software can enable safer, shorter, less invasive operations, a lighter cognitive load for surgeons, and ultimately, better outcomes for patients.
In taking Cydar Medical, which is now used in six different countries, on its transition from hospital research project to a commercial business, both the business model and approach have shifted significantly. The technology is now CE marked, FDA approved and the company continues to grow its collaboration with NHS organisations, where it is already being deployed.
Tom attributes Cydar’s success to the dedication of the team and their commitment to eliminate risks one by one as they created their prototype, sought regulatory clearance and ran clinical trials. Collecting robust clinical evidence was also a crucial part of collaborating with the NHS, enabling them to demonstrate clear proof points in the efficacy of the technology.
The startup learning curve
Having both left medicine, Fiona and Tom have since entered the start-up ecosystem, and acknowledge that the path is not always smooth sailing. For Tom, the lightbulb moment came when he realised that he could make more impact outside of medicine by focusing on Cydar. The first few years after he made the move to become full-time CEO were a huge learning curve, however, he commented that he felt as if he learned more in that time than in the previous 10 years whilst training to become a consultant surgeon.
Cydar Medical is currently a team of 30+ people in the UK and the US, who all have a real sense of community and camaraderie. In Tom’s view, bringing together people with diverse perspectives and experience is critical to success. His approach to growing the Cydar team saw him hiring experienced leaders, trusting them to do the work and to continue evolving the team. His advice to anyone building their own team is to respect differences – that is how you will thrive.
Find out more about Cydar Medical here: https://www.cydarmedical.com/