DistalMotion’s Surgical Tool Combines the Best of Robotic and Endoscopic Surgery

DistalMotion’s Surgical Tool Combines the Best of Robotic and Endoscopic Surgery

A machine that allows highly skilled surgeons to effectively lengthen their fingers has been designed in the Robotics System Laboratory. Ricardo Beira elaborated this idea in his thesis, and subsequently created the start-up, DistalMotion, to further develop it:. The device is controlled by small joysticks which allow the operation of surgical tools fixed to the end of a metal arm. The goal? To facilitate minimally invasive operations without opening the abdominal wall.

Two to three bodily orifices allow for the passage of a small camera and long surgical instruments. This technique, known as endoscopy, is used more and more in urology, gynecology and visceral surgery.While this technique has many benefits, the main problem is the lack of precision in the surgeon’s movements, which is linked to the rigidity of the tools. Moreover, the surgeon must work with a mirror as, for example, a movement to the surgeon’s left results in the tool moving to the right; hence, a particularly intense training is necessary. Ricardo Beira’s system solves these problems.

Completely Mechanical

The small joysticks are able to exactly replicate the surgeon’s movements,. As a result, pliers, scissors, needles and other tools move as if a practitioner was directly holding them. The research completed at the robotics laboratory has allowed for the elimination of a problem inherent to such mechanisms, the exaggeration of movements. When a small movement outside of the patient’s body is translated into a larger one inside the patient, operations become even more. delicate and painstaking. Thanks to this device, seven degrees of freedom are permitted in the reproduction of movement, including, for example, the rotation of the wrist.

In the era of robotics crammed with electronics, detectors and sensors, this mechanical engine developed by Ricardo Beira is quite remarkable. It should permit a considerable expansion of the variety of coelioscopic procedures, which present numerous advantages in relation to traditional surgery, notably with regard to safety, aesthetics and cost. The post-operative pain and risk of infection are lesser, the scars are smaller, and the stay at the hospital shorter.

The device requires craftsmanship of the highest and most detailed order, but the horizon is bright due to the numerous foreseen advantages . “The future cost of production will lie outside a common measure with the only devices capable of this much mobility in this type of operation, the DaVinci robots. These enormous devices, which equip only a few hospitals in the world, cost millions and necessitate huge spaces,”explains Ricardo Beira.

Second Prototype and Pre-Clinical Trials

Pre-clinical trials at the CHUV and the Inselspital in Bern will take place this year with simulations of prostate operations. The product was redesigned to give it a more appealing form for the market. The start-up has just been created, but a few days ago it won the final phase of Venture Kick, an aid to young talents worth up to 130,000 Swiss francs. The validation process of the system is in progress.

The two new winners of venture kick are located in Lausanne and Zurich. Spin-off of EPFL, DistalMotion developing a new type of surgery, minimally invasive, for prostate cancer. The start-up UrbanFarmers Zurich defends it on a model of urban agriculture unpublished. In closing the last stage of venture kick, the two young companies will now be able to truly launch the entrepreneurial adventure thanks to 130,000 francs seed funds collected so far.


The team DistalMotion: Ricardo Beira and Lionel Flaction


Roman Gaus and Andreas Graber, the two founders of UrbanFarmers


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According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. There are currently good tools to make the surgery effective for this condition, but the hospital would benefit to have minimally invasive methods and less expensive for this type of interventions. Nearly 85% of hospitals offer only the surgically need to open the patient’s abdomen, which involves high costs due to the complexity of the procedure and the duration of hospital accommodation for people made. For this reason, many smaller institutions have abandoned the practice prostatectomies.

An effective and inexpensive tool for prostate surgery

DistalMotion could change that. The spin-off of EPFL has developed a tool that minimizes the aspects of invasive prostate operations for the same clinical results and is accessible to any type of care. This tool, based on a patented force feedback allows the surgeon to feel closer to the consequences of his actions during the operation and benefit from unmatched precision. Its cost is about one-tenth of robotic systems competitors, which are also significantly bigger.

Member of the team venture leaders 2011, the CEO and cofounder of DistalMotion, Ricardo Beira, with his colleague Lionel Flaction in the role of managing director, hopes to complete its prototype in 6 months. The money raised through venture kick serve entrepreneurs to try to impose their innovation and have enough time to raise more capital to enter the market by 2015.

«Venture kick is a program to support entrepreneurship among the most prolific. More than the money we raised, it is the feedback that we received from jurors and competing teams that proved decisive for the development of our society, “said Ricardo Beira.

Fresh food on the roofs of houses

The global population is growing, and the awareness of the need for a more stingy gas emissions greenhouse has not yet imposed. Nearly 80% of the retail price displayed in supermarkets for products such as salads are yet to cover the cost of shipping and handling. It is in this context that the company has launched UrbanFarmers, which accounts adequately address the system for the production of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables so environmentally friendly, according to a model of “cities of the Future “planned for this century.

UrbanFarmers is positioned as a cleantech in the field of agriculture. This spin-off of the Fachhochschule Wädenswil Zurich was founded in 2011 by Roman Gaus and Andreas Graber. The purpose of these is to provide solutions to enable sustainable and competitive agricultural culture in the city. The impact on the environment, particularly in terms of CO2 emissions, is undeniable, and the model can control the whole production chain.

The company has designed various models of hydroponics or aquaculture operations that produce almost the same place where the products are consumed. No more hassle when the supermarket just go on a greenhouse on the roof of his house to his fresh market or grab a salad in a glass box mounted on the balcony. Obviously, the ecological balance is provided from upstream of the chain tight control of administered nutrients for plants and fish. UrbanFarmers has a pilot farm in LokDepot in the Basel region, which serves as proof of concept and a showcase for the company.

“We are pleased to have closed all stages of venture kick. Our vision of urban agriculture may be ahead of some 20 years for the mass market, but I am convinced that we were able to convince the jury that the range of products we plan to launch was likely to break Thanks to our team and our past successes, “said Roman Gaus, co-founder of UrbanFarmers. The young entrepreneur adds that the early stages of venture kick allowed the company to generate a “buzz” huge, allowing them to raise their first funds.

About venture kick

venture kick is a pre-seed fund supported by Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Ernst Göhner Stiftung, OPO-Stiftung, Avina Stiftung Foundation in 1796 and Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch & Cie. Operational management of the funds entrusted to IFJ Institut für Jungunternehmen, based in St. Gallen, Zurich and Lausanne. The objective of this private initiative is to double the number of spin-off from the Swiss colleges and universities to improve the quality of start-ups and their attractiveness vis-à-vis professional investors. To achieve this goal, venture kick provides seed funding of up to 130,000 francs.

Since its launch in autumn 2008, venture kick awarded funding of approximately CHF 8 million to 219 projects spin-off from the Swiss universities. 155 highly innovative companies have emerged, creating about 1,600 skilled jobs and sustainable for the Swiss economy. Start-ups supported in turn could raise more than 230 million francs in financing volume.

The advantages of endoscopic surgery are many. However, there are also drawbacks, especially for surgeons. Consider the following. Endoscopic surgery lacks fine precision due to the rigid nature of the tools. Moreover, because the surgeon is basically operating a lever (the beam being the surgical instrument and the trocar being the fulcrum), the surgeon’s movements are actually operating in opposite direction, which necessitates extensive training.

Robotic surgery has been developed concurrently with the advancement of electronic and computer technologies with a specific goal of solving some intrinsic problems of endoscopic approach. Surgical robots, such as the da Vinci, allow a surgeon to not only work remotely, but to also be able to effortlessly perform delicate procedures with his or her hands because of the robot’s ability to translate large movements by the surgeon into small movements in the corresponding instruments. However, the surgeon does not have any haptic feedback when instruments come in contact with tissue. Moreover, available surgical robots are very expensive and require a lot of space, a luxury that few hospitals have.

Ricardo Beira, a student at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, and founder of DistalMotion, has developed a device that brings together benefits of both endoscopic and robotic surgery. The device is completely mechanical and consists of a number of small joysticks, which allow the operation of surgical tools fixed to the end of a metal arm using endoscopic surgical techniques. The joysticks replicate the surgeon’s movements and allow for seven degrees of movement, including wrist rotation. The mechanical nature of the device also provides the surgeon force feedback in his or her movements. As the device lacks the sophisticated electronic components found in other surgical robots, DistalMotion’s tool is only about one-tenth the cost of other devices.

Source : http://actu.epfl.ch/news/extending-the-hands-of-the-endoscopic-surgeon/

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