Last week, I had the honor of giving a guest lecture as part of Professor Gregory Katz’s “Chair of Therapeutic Innovation” initiative at the prestigious French business school, ESSEC. The course, as he describes it, aims to “ignite fires” and train “the upcoming generation of decision-makers in innovation management and stimulate their sense of ethical leadership.”
It is always a pleasure sharing the story of Mauna Kea Technologies’ creation with enthusiastic and engaging audiences like the one I met at ESSEC.
Sacha Loiseau speaking at ESSEC. Photo Credit: @Louisemartinlm
When Professor Katz introduced me, he described medical device entrepreneurs as “modern healthcare heroes,” who require a certain amount of vision and willpower to be able to change ingrained practices in healthcare. He talked about Mauna Kea Technologies as an example of this and the challenge we face in our mission to make Confocal Laser Endomicroscopy a standard of care. This is not an easy task because many healthcare systems are not currently designed to encourage innovation that fits with Precision Medicine, a concept that proposes the customization of healthcare. (More info on Precision Medicine here.)
Take our key pancreatic application for instance. Our technology, Cellvizio, when used by interventional endoscopists, enables a very precise characterization of pancreatic cystic lesions, which has been a conundrum so far with the equipment currently used. Thanks to our technology, the diagnostic accuracy increases from less than 50% to nearly 90%.
Cellvizio allows physicians to view microscopic images of pancreatic cysts, in real time.
The benefits of a precise characterization of a pancreatic cyst is significant. For pre-malignant cysts, surgery is often the only solution, despite the serious risks and potential complications associated. But most pancreatic lesions are benign and require no further investigation or treatment. Our technology makes it possible for patients to avoid unnecessary surgeries, by allowing theirs physicians to rule-out cancer with near 100% confidence. This has the potential to impact a large number of patients, as noted in a recent international study on 2400 patients that showed that 61% of patients with benign cysts were sent to surgery, when it was potentially avoidable in a vast majority of these cases.
So, what’s the hang up? It’s simple: Hospitals and clinics are often motivated for financial reasons that encourages them to increase the volume of patients and procedures rather than increase the quality of care, which can be translated as reduced unnecessary care. Since our innovative technology is not yet reimbursed for this application, there is little financial incentive to adopt it. However, there is a strong incentive in terms of doing what’s right for the patient (and also, what’s right for the the healthcare system). Fortunately, there are still a good number of hospitals and clinics interested in being leaders in patient care and we have about 30 of them in France (and hundreds around the world). But it would really help if the healthcare system did more to help us help them!
My discussions with the students at ESSEC were interesting and enriching. I received several emails afterwards with encouraging feedback about the inspiration they gained during our chats. That made my day. I’d like to thank all those who took part in the exceptional event and I look forward to the next opportunity to talk about our story, challenges and opportunities.
Do you have an example of a "Modern Medical Hero" who inspires innovation? Please share your thoughts in the comments area below.