Tech-Con’s ‘Shark Tank’ Dives Deep

Innovators pose their ideas before a panel of judges during Sunday morning’s STS/AATS Tech-Con Joint Session, ‘Shark Tank.’

With video of an immense great white shark looming in waters as a stage backdrop, aspiring innovators posed their ideas before a panel of judges during Sunday morning’s STS/AATS Tech-Con Joint Session: “Shark Tank”—Rapid-Fire Elevator Pitches of Revolutionary Technology.

Opening the Shark Tank program were moderators Gorav Ailawadi, MD, Chief of the Section of Adult Cardiac Surgery and Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and Shanda H. Blackmon, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Surgery at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

“Tech-Con is completely different from many past years with no CME, enabling us to talk about new devices and approaches that we were not able to discuss before at the STS meeting,” Dr. Ailawadi said.

After presenters took 5 minutes each to state their cases, a panel of four judges queried the innovators about the usefulness, marketability, and cost of their cardiothoracic inventions. The judges gave feedback as the audience was polled in three investment scenarios: Yes, definitely in; No, I’m out; and Possibly, but not as an early investor.

The panelists were Daniela Molena, MD, New York, Eric E. Roselli, MD, Cleveland, Mark Slaughter, MD, Louisville, Ky., and Steven F. Bolling, MD, Ann Arbor, Mich.

After Miguel A. Maluf, MD, PhD, Sí£o Paulo, Brazil, described his prototype of an expandable, catheter-implantable, polyurethane stent valve for pediatric patients, Dr. Bolling noted that the stent would have a higher potential for thrombosis “because you have a lot of polyurethane touching polyurethane,” but Dr. Molena was intrigued.

“It’s really early stage, but I could buy the idea. I’m a mother. I love the idea of my kid not having to redo surgery. The concept is a good concept. We’re in a very early stage of development. We’re going need a lot of technology involved with this to really make it work, but I think I’m in it,” she said.

Then Dr. Roselli joked with Dr. Molena, “You’re in the coral reef. I’m in the deep waters.”

John A. Elefteriades, MD, New Haven, Conn., pitched a cooling catheter for spinal cord protection. He said that experiments to date, carried out in a sheep model, have shown the catheter accomplishes substantial cooling of the spinal cord (up to 7oC) at systemic normothermia with no evidence of histologic injury to the spinal cord and no physical injury or limitation in 1-week survival experiments. Also, in survival investigations, 19 of 19 sheep were neurologically intact in the long term. Future goals include performing a first-in-man safety trial in Europe and continuing to develop a brain cooling catheter.

Dr. Elefteriades’s presentation brought across-the-panel interest, and 73% of the audience responded with yes, definitely in.

Tech-Con, which kicked off on Saturday, also featured numerous talks in adult cardiac and general thoracic tracks, exhibits where companies showcased their products and services, and a Saturday evening reception.

Among the Saturday Adult Cardiac Track I mitral valve technology discussions were ones on NeoChord and Valtech, and the transcatheter mitral valve replacement presentations included the CardiAQ Valve, Neovasc Tiara Valve, and Tendyne. Saturday afternoon’s General Thoracic Track II: Advances in Robotic Tools and Technology gave attendees insights on robotic technology in development, emerging robotic tools, new robotic platforms, and new haptic technology for robotic surgery. Sunday’s General Thoracic Track III focused on the operating room of the future in several discussions, including apps in practice, thoracic hybrid operating room of the future, and holographic projection.