‘Shark Tank’ Takes Aim at Unmet Surgical Needs

The cardiothoracic device market has grown dramatically in recent years, but unmet needs persist. Four physician-inventors aiming to tap the burgeoning market pitched their cutting-edge devices during “Shark Tank,” part of the Tech-Con Joint Session: The Future of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Syed T. Raza, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York, opened the pitch session with a stapler to create rapid and leakproof aortic anastomoses in patients with acute Type A aortic dissections. Conventional hand-sewn anastomoses are prone to bleeding.

Dr. Raza’s solution is a round stapler that joins native vessel and graft with two rows of 30 staples. The stapler can be handheld or fitted to a robotic arm.

Grayson H. Wheatley, MD, of TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, and Daniela Molena, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, were the sharks assessing the pitches. Dr. Wheatley said that he liked the novel idea. So did the audience, with 61% voting to fund development.

Jeffrey R. Gohean, MSME, of Windmill Cardiovascular Systems in Austin, TX, pitched a two-piston toroidal pulsatile flow VAD. The gentle pulsatile flow exerts low shear force, resulting in minimal blood trauma and platelet activation, which are responsible for the high rates of adverse events seen with conventional continuous-flow VADs. Preclinical trials show acute and long-term benefits and no thrombus formation without anticoagulation therapy.

Dr. Molena praised the novel approach while 78% of the audience voted to fund the project.

Usman Ahmad, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, pitched ThoraStim, an implantable neurostimulator for pain management following cardiac surgery. He noted that the FDA has already approved an implantable neurostimulator to manage pain following total knee arthroplasty, potentially easing approval.

The ThoraStim electrode is implanted along the intercostal nerve and protrudes slightly above the skin. Once the need for pain control has passed, the device is removed as easily as a chest tube.

Dr. Wheatley found the concept appealing, but said that human trial data are needed. The audience agreed, with 57% voting to fund the venture.

Faiz Y. Bhora, MD, of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, pitched Tracheomend, a 3D printed artificial trachea. The printed trachea scaffold is wrapped in a biologic membrane impregnated with a “secret sauce” of homing molecules to attract epithelial and stem cells, which implant and grow to create a biologically competent trachea.

An intriguing idea, Dr. Molena suggested, but not ready for prime time. The audience agreed, with 57% voting to not fund the venture.