Las Vegas as the ideal stage for innovation from Maastrichtjanuary 26, 2020
i-Med presents surgical digital 3D-loupe
A few weeks ago, Vincent Graham and Jaap Heukelom presented their digital loupe for surgeons and dentists at the world's largest technology fair, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The loupe is a digital “viewing system” used to monitor surgical procedures. The reactions from potential users, the press and investors have been incredibly enthusiastic. The entrepreneurs will bring the medical innovation to the European market through their company i-Med Technology BV, based at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus. America will follow soon afterwards. "Surgeons can't wait.”
They're still a little perplexed by the tidal wave of attention that swept over them at the enormous exhibition complex in the American casino city of Las Vegas. “It was a madhouse,” according to Jaap Heukelom, co-founder and commercial director of i-Med. “There was a constant line of people waiting to try out the loupe, and then asking where they could order it. I'm not talking about consumers, because that's not the exhibition’s target market, but professionals, such as surgeons, dentists, major medical companies and investors from the US and Europe. It was really fantastic. We know how amazing our device is, but a launch like this is the stuff of dreams.”
Vincent Graham and Jaap Heukelom in surgical scrubs at the Las Vegas exhibition.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the annual Walhalla for tech enthusiasts. This is where the latest smartphones, cars, televisions and robots are introduced. This year’s four day event drew 170,000 people from all over the world, from techies, connoisseurs and trendwatchers to potential investors. It’s the ideal place for presenting a new invention. “Definitely,” according to Vincent, “but getting in isn’t that easy. Fortunately, we were asked to join the Dutch delegation on their trip to Las Vegas after we were named one of the 50 most innovative start-ups in the Netherlands. This is an opportunity you can’t refuse especially when you find out that State Secretary Mona Keizer and HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands are part of the delegation as ambassadors for the Dutch entries. You can’t get a better recommendation than that.”
Vincent Graham is the technical brain behind the device which weighs less than 250 grams and has two built-in HD cameras that surgeons and dentists wear on their heads while they perform surgery. Connected to a portable computer, this super-smart loupe not only shows exactly what the doctor is doing through precise and magnified images, but also displays 3D images of previously taken scans and photos and allows other relevant information to be retrieved via voice commands or with the foot console that is included with the device. “Surgeons see the images directly through the loupe and can retrieve other information without having to interrupt their work,” Vincent explains. “It’s very safe and efficient. The loupe has also been designed so that surgeons can keep their heads in an upright position. This is important as many doctors suffer from back and neck symptoms from having to bend over and lean forward all the time.”
Another major advantage of the new technology is the ability to watch procedures in real time via a monitor installed in the operating room or in a classroom. “This system can process 40 gigabytes of data per second, making it interesting for colleagues anywhere in the world,” Jaap says. “And extremely suitable for educational purposes, of course. These days, operations are filmed in 3D and recorded but not in this fashion. You actually see what the surgeon sees, and in 3D. Medical schools are eager to start using it immediately.”
Surgeons and dentists
Vincent Graham, entrepreneur and owner of the Leeuwarden-based CIN-ergy, a company specialized in optronics, has worked on the system for five years. Initially he worked alone, but since 2016 he has collaborated with Jaap Heukelom and various surgeons.
“Surgeons in particular have shown a great degree of interest,” Jaap reminisces. “We set up i-Med in 2018 to further develop the idea. We made the conscious decision to do this here at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus because of the contacts with doctors at the teaching hospital, but also because of the available facilities, support and financial involvement. The campus is now a shareholder along with investor QuaestInvest BV and the two of us. Several surgeons and doctors have tested the loupe and offered feedback, helping us perfect the device. This is the ideal breeding ground for a medical innovation. We had already received a positive assessment last year in the form of various subsidies and a position among the most innovative startups in the Netherlands. It goes without saying that we hoped to go to the CES, but it was still unsure if we would succeed. Right after Christmas, less than a week before we were due to depart, we had a perfectly functioning system that was finally ready to go to market.”
In Las Vegas, i-Med had a booth in the Holland Pavilion in one of the giant exhibition complex halls. In spite of the massive size of the exhibition, the two entrepreneurs managed to attract quite a bit of attention. “The fact that we had borrowed surgical scrubs from the Maastricht UMC+ really added credibility to our story,” Jaap Heukelom laughs. “This worked really well even though it’s ultimately about what the device can do, of course.”
Once back in the Netherlands, it became clear that i-Med will be launching an amazing invention on the market. “There are currently no competitors that can do this,” Vincent Graham says with pride. “We expect to finalize the CE certification before the summer. In expectation of the certification, our new account managers have started marketing and acquisition activities. Even though there may be a lot of interest, actually making sales is another story. We will start in Europe, including the Netherlands and Germany. In 2021, we plan to cross the ocean. We have found a partner, Neways Electronics, that will produce the devices for us. It will become a pure Dutch hi-tech product, after all!”