At a former Boeing manufacturing facility near Seattle’s waterfront, a six-year-old startup is preparing a system that will transform surgery.
Proprio’s technology allows surgeons to see key structures in three dimensions and in real time on screen. The system helps clinicians place incisions and guide the placement of hardware such as devices that help straighten the spine.
The name “Proprio” is a play on the word “proprioception,” the body’s ability to sense its position in space, said CEO and co-founder Gabriel Jones during a recent visit to the company’s headquarters. I told you when
“For a surgeon, it’s very important,” he said. “We need to understand how anatomy and biology respond and how we can treat it.”
According to Jones, the company is “enhancing what clinicians can do.”
Proprio has submitted a marketing application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to approve a system called Paradigm in early 2023. Commercial launches are expected to follow, Jones said.
The system is primarily being tested in spine and cranial surgery, which are the largest revenue generators for hospital systems and Proprio’s target market.
Paradigm captures high-definition images of the surgical field from above and fuses them with preoperative 3D scan images. The system relies on advances in light field imaging, computer vision, machine learning, robotics and augmented reality.
Surgeons can see relevant anatomy in three dimensions on screen, including areas that are difficult or impossible to see with the eye alone. The generated images can also adapt to positional shifts of changing anatomy in real time.
The company, a spin-out from the University of Washington, does not publish its data, making it difficult for outside researchers to evaluate its products. It has some features.
But Matthew Scott Young, surgeon at Gold Coast Spine in Queensland, Australia, and former president of the Australian Spine Association, says there are other systems that deliver all of Proprio’s promise. increase.
Combining artificial intelligence with augmented and virtual reality systems will enable integration with advanced imaging methods such as CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds and X-rays, said Scott-Young, who is not affiliated with the startup. I’m here.
“Other companies are just combining some of these capabilities into one platform, so Proprio could be a game changer,” says Scott-Young. Proprio, he said, “combines all the good things.”
Other Proprio co-founders include Seattle child neurosurgeon Samuel Browd, who co-founded high-tech sports helmet maker Vicis. Professor Joshua Smith of the University of Washington, who leads the Sensor Systems Laboratory at the University of Washington. Kenneth Denman, technology executive and investor. James Youngquist, a computer vision expert and head of his R&D for the startup.
Proprio’s technology partners include Intel, HTC, NVIDIA, Samsung, and UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science.
David Fiorella, the team’s product manager, showed GeekWire how the position of the vertebrae changes in a model registered as a 3D image. His 3D sensing capabilities of the system allow for precise placement of surgical implants, including screws for spinal fusion surgery.
The paradigm also allows visualization of multiple vertebrae and measures their relative positions. This is a feature that aids the surgeon in the difficult task of accurately placing spinal rods while aligning multiple vertebrae. The system also helps minimize the repeated X-rays that are often required in such surgeries.
“Physicians are expected to torque and manipulate the spine into healthy alignment,” says Jones. “It’s not an A to B kind of scenario. It’s curved in space.”
Such complex surgeries now often use systems, including those made by Medtronic, that temporarily require the use of external devices placed inside the body to guide the correct position during the procedure. . The system is slow, static, expensive and exposes surgeons and patients to ionizing radiation, Jones said.
Paradigm has the potential to replace such systems, which are sold to hospitals and healthcare systems and are used in about 30% of surgeries, Jones said. Ultimately, Paradigm could be useful in a wider range of surgeries.
Christopher Schaffrey, director of spine surgery at Duke University and a member of Proprio’s medical advisory board, told GeekWire that Paradigm could take over the role of several other devices in the operating room, and his work He hopes that the proprio paradigm will be widely adopted by surgeons.
Proprio collected data through healthcare partners such as UW Medicine, Seattle Children’s, and surgeons to compare how Paradigm visualizes surgery with existing systems. Paradigms have also been tested on cadavers and other surgical models.
The company’s on-site operating rooms include audio recording devices and built-in cameras throughout the ceiling to capture a panoramic view of the procedure. Jones calls it the “Batcave for surgery.”
“Data drives everything,” says Jones. “We collect everything from surgery.”
Proprio’s research, which has yet to be published, focuses on ease of use, accuracy and precision, including the ability to guide hardware like screws into their proper positions. Jones said data show the technology could increase accuracy, reduce complications and revisions, reduce radiation exposure, and reduce operating room time.
“Better, faster and safer tend to be our focus,” Jones said.
Like many in the medical field, Jones was drawn to the field by personal experience. When he was young, his best friend died of a brain tumor, and his father, the child’s neurosurgeon, was powerless to save him.
Jones co-founded Proprio in 2016, leaving his previous job at consulting firm Intentional Futures to help clients like Bill Gates evaluate emerging technologies.
The company has raised $42.1 million and employs 51 software and medical device engineers, machine learning experts, and marketing experts.
The company’s engineering leadership includes Neeraj Mainkar, former vice president of software engineering at robotics firm Vicarious Surgical, and Shannon Eubanks, an alum of SonoSite, Bayer HealthCare, and Seattle startup Magnolia Medical Technologies.
Jones pays close attention to his products and his team members are obsessed with design and detail. Proprio’s logo uses the same colors as the famous surgical textbook, and the curvature angles of the Paradigm components are mirror images of each other. The Proprio font is also a custom design.
“Details such as system functionality, design, and execution are very important to our team and our customers,” says Jones.
The team is also building capabilities to review and annotate surgical procedures from visual and audio data, such as ordering a surgeon to deliver a screw. Such automated review systems can also support medical coding of procedures to facilitate reimbursement, adding value to customers.
“The quality, depth and richness of data can improve surgical performance,” says Jones.