When SLAM Orthopedic co-founder and CEO Just Schornagel came into contact with Bas de Hartog, he learned that, though the field of medicine has advanced much, many trauma surgeons’ instruments are still the same: for example, the device that measures the length of the bone. Unfortunately, using this instrument takes valuable time, and 9% of the measurements lead to wrong screws being inserted that pose a risk for the patient and then have to be replaced. So together with their other co-founder Bart Kölling, they created a solution that would measure the bone automatically during drilling, making the measurements more accurate, shortening the operation time, and reducing patient risk.
Working on the weekends
They started working on a solution on weekends while working full-time at their corporate jobs and studying full-time. Then, they realized they could create a functional product that could be commercial at the same time. Schornagel, the CEO of SLAM Orthopedic, quit his job to pursue this opportunity. They joined the YES!Delft Medtech validation program and moved into the YES!Delft building.
Just Schornagel: “The program taught us to go outside the office and talk to our potential customers. We spoke with doctors across Europe. We spent three months creating our value proposition, which has greatly helped us.”
The program taught us to go outside the office and talk to our potential customers. We spent three months creating our value proposition, which has greatly helped us.
Helping trauma and orthopedic surgeons
SLAM Orthopedic has designed a sensor system to assist trauma and orthopedic surgeons during surgery. The doctors often work in trauma centers and academic hospitals, much like Bas, one of the co-founders of SLAM Orthopedic. The fracture can heal once surgeons put in a metal plate and fasten those with screws. Those screws should be precisely the right length. If they are too short, the metal plate may become unstable. However, if the screws are too long, they might damage surrounding tendons and muscles, resulting in complications. Using the sensors of SLAM Orthopedic is more efficient, as measurements take place while drilling. This way, the operation time is shorter, and the surgeon can focus on the patient.
Additionally, SLAM orthopedic has considered its product’s environmental footprint. For example, suppose a screw needs to be taken out during surgery because it is not the correct length. In that case, it is thrown away, resulting in unnecessary waste. Using the sensor system of SLAM Orthopedic will make measurements more precise, resulting in fewer screws thrown away. Also, the sensor lasts for 20 surgeries because of the battery lifetime. After that, hospitals can send it back to SLAM Orthopedic, where they will replace the battery and send it back to the hospital.
We believe that by enabling surgeons with more innovative equipment, they can focus on the most important parts of the surgery. This way, we help the patients, too.
SLAM Orthopedic is currently in the preclinical phase. They have already done trials with the Reinier de Graaf and UMCG hospitals, demonstrating that their sensor measures more accurately than traditional instruments. During the summer of 2023, they plan their first in-patient clinical trial with the ErasmusMC. The next step is getting the proper medical CE certification to ensure the safety of the intelligent sensors. Finally, they want to do a round of seed funding later in 2023 to ensure they have the resources to apply for certification and the production process. Overall, SLAM Orthopedic is taking significant steps this year to advance its business.
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