By Hermione Wilson
This year’s Life Sciences Ontario Awards Gala saw Synaptive Medical recognized as Company of the Year. The Toronto-based medical device company is dedicated to bringing innovation into the brain surgery space by improving on surgical equipment and streamlining robotic and data systems through new technology.
“We identified a huge gap in the operating room of brain patients,” says Chief Commercial Officer Jim Cloar. “You basically have three or four companies bringing in equipment to do a surgery and they don’t really talk to each other effectively, they don’t help document what was done.”
Synaptive Medical represents the collaboration of President and Co-founder Cameron Piron and an interdisciplinary team of innovators that includes engineers and healthcare professionals. Like many Toronto biotechs, the company began life as a start-up at MaRS Discovery District in 2012.
“It’s great to be part of the innovation that’s going on in Toronto,” Cloar says. “It’s very exciting to be recognized by such great people in the community that is really, I think, exploding as far as innovation and excitement around the space. Just to be recognized by your peers and by leaders is particularly meaningful and validating to what we’re trying to accomplish.”
In terms of the larger Canadian life sciences community, Cloar says the provincial and federal government were very supportive of the company, helping it through different processes and helping it find funding. Synaptive Medical benefitted from Toronto’s diverse young workforce as well, he says. “It allows us to attract brilliant people to help us grow.”
In just five years, Synaptive Medical has amassed 300 employees and launched eight products, a collection of surgical tools geared toward neurosurgery that are tied together with its informatics platform to form an integrated system. A lot of surgical tools are still analogue and have not changed greatly in several years, Cloar says. Synaptive Medical’s goal has been to bring innovation into a space that hasn’t been innovated in a long time.
“BrightMatter Plan really allows you to visualize the fiber tracks in the brain that aren’t visible to the naked eye, so it kind of gives the surgeon a map to stay away from key areas,” Cloar says. “Then we have the robot that has both navigation, which is called BrightMatter Guide, or the optical product itself which resides on the robot, which is called Vision, and the robot itself BrightMatter Drive. It’s all looped together with something called BrightMatter Informatics, which is the data pool.”
Synaptive Medical will be launching a next generation BrightMatter robotics platform, advanced planning software and two other products that are still under wraps later this year. The company has also gone global. It has installed a unit with a surgical group in Karachi, Pakistan, to take advantage of “an exceptional opportunity to collect data on outcomes, costs and all those kinds of things,” Cloar says. The company is also in the process of establishing an international office in Lausanne, Switzerland.