Nissha and Academia: Pioneering Surgical Innovations

by Samantha Tilkins

In a recent interview with Mike Springer, Vice President of Emerging Technologies at Nissha Medical Technologies (NMT), we discussed collaborative opportunities aimed at advancing emerging technologies in digital surgery and smart devices. These fields are rapidly evolving, driven by breakthroughs in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

 NMT’s partnership with EndoTheia, a spin-out from Vanderbilt University, known for its dexterous steerable device technologies, exemplifies how strategic collaborations can enhance innovation. Here, we outline the genesis of these collaborations, their current status, and future goals focused on strategic alignment and mutual benefit.

What Prompted NMT’s Partnership with EndoTheia?

According to Brandon Hoffman, Executive VP of NMT, the partnership with EndoTheia was inspired by the company’s innovative potential and strong leadership. “We recognized EndoTheia as a promising entity with visionary founders and a robust team, not actively seeking an immediate buyout,” Hoffman noted. NMT’s investment in EndoTheia opened doors to explore various avenues for commercializing their cutting-edge technologies.

The Connection Between Vanderbilt and EndoTheia

EndoTheia emerged as a spin-out from Vanderbilt University, with NMT acquiring equity in the venture. Many team members at EndoTheia have deep ties to Vanderbilt, either as former students or researchers. Notably, Robert Webster, a VISE Steering Committee Member and one of the founders of EndoTheia, runs the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE) lab. Duke Herrrell, another VISE Steering Committee Member, sits on EndoTheia’s board. Josh Gafford, EndoTheia’s CTO, and Scott Webster, its COO, hold adjunct and research assistant professorships at Vanderbilt, respectively. Patrick Anderson, a lead engineer at EndoTheia, is also a VISE alumnus.

NMT is actively test marketing EndoTheia’s technologies with various companies, exploring integration possibilities and potential long-term collaborations. This collaboration extends to discussions about bringing OEMs to VISE, which would provide testing capabilities and access to next-generation robotic surgeons.

Additionally, NMT has collaborated with Anita Mahadevan-Jansen, Director of the Vanderbilt Biophotonics Center (VBC), on the early stages of developing a complex custom camera module with our engineering team in Kyoto, Japan

Applying the Collaboration Framework to the University at Buffalo

Building on its success with Vanderbilt and EndoTheia, NMT is eyeing potential partnerships with the University at Buffalo (UB). This includes sponsoring research projects, establishing a physical presence, and leveraging UB’s expertise in robotics and AI. Although still in the development phase, potential collaboration initiatives include sponsoring research and innovation fellowships, recruiting and hiring talent, hosting guest speakers, organizing tours and internships, and setting up a physical outpost at UB.

The Role of Nissha Academy in Cultivating Collaboration

Nissha Academy plays a crucial role in these collaborative efforts. As an internal institution within NMT, it is dedicated to educating current employees while developing partnerships and expanding knowledge. The Academy provides workshops, seminars, and training sessions to keep employees aware of industry trends and technologies. Additionally, it focuses on developing management skills through leadership programs and communication workshops. By engaging with external entities, the Academy facilitates collaboration with academic institutions and industry experts, driving innovation and maintaining NMT’s competitive edge in the healthcare sector. It also plans to involve individuals from institutions like UB as guest speakers or participants, promoting knowledge exchange and collaboration.

Aligning Collaboration with NMT’s Overall Strategy

The collaboration with UB fits seamlessly into NMT’s broader strategy of partnering with both internal and external stakeholders in emerging technologies. By leveraging expertise and resources, NMT aims to drive innovation while being mindful of constraints.

Looking ahead, NMT plans to  develop a multi-year technology roadmap with UB, inviting guest speakers to Nissha Academy sessions and utilizing industry connections to facilitate collaboration. Additionally, NMT will continue to focus on test marketing EndoTheia’s technologies and building relationships with key personnel at EndoTheia to leverage their expertise.

Through these strategic collaborations, NMT is well-positioned to drive forward innovation in digital surgery and smart devices, ensuring a future where advanced medical technologies continue to improve patient outcomes and healthcare delivery.