Startup InLine-Med develops products for optimized image-guided interventions
A Magdeburg startup has developed assistance devices that make needle-based interventions safer. InLine-Med GmbH’s mission has become reality: innovative products for safe, precise and easy diagnostic and therapeutic interventions such as cancer biopsies, pain and cancer treatment. The company is supported by the Research Campus STIMULATE and bmp Ventures AG.
This is the story of how an idea for a medical engineering master’s thesis became a medtech innovation for the region of Saxony-Anhalt. It was Magdeburg University’s excellent reputation that drew Sinja Lagotzki, native from the city of Kiel in Northern Germany, and Columbian Juan Sebastián Sánchez López to Magdeburg. The South American was studying the possibilities of using mechanical assistance devices to guide biopsy needles more precisely in minimally invasive procedures. The topic quickly took on a life of its own. The two fellow students spent long hours in operating theaters and speaking to radiologists. “We realized right away that there was a huge need, and above all, that we had to take it a few steps further. And so we made it our mission,” says Lagotzki. “We wanted to root out problems and solve them through medical engineering.”
“This medtech startup has great potential”
A year ago, the pair founded their own company. Their aim: to apply their development skills to optimizing costly, time-consuming procedures. Radiologists employ magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) or ultrasound to guide the hollow needles used in biopsies. “To position the needle correctly, hospitals need specially trained personnel and the procedures are fraught with risks,” explains Sánchez López. So InLine-Med developed assistance devices that make radiologists’ interventions safer, easier and more precise. Moreover, the company’s devices, software solutions and tools can be integrated in common procedures, solve the problem of space limitations in the use of MRI, reduce doctors’ radiation exposure and save time by aligning the needle quickly.
“In existing procedures, positioning biopsy needles is very complicated and therefore poses risks to both patients and radiologists,” says Raik Madla, Investment Manager at bmp Venture AG, who has an in-depth understanding of the issues and works closely with the Magdeburg startup. He’s convinced that “this medtech startup has great potential to make a significant, lasting impact by improving patient care and facilitating the work of radiologists.” The venture capital company is supporting In-Line-Med through the Saxony-Anhalt IBG fund that it manages. As a company founded by young university graduates, In-Line Med was a prime candidate for the startup Gladiator program, says Madla. “This is just the kind of promising regional startup we’re here to boost.” The program, developed by bmp Ventures AG, finances the early stage of young tech startups in Saxony-Anhalt. Alongside funding, it helps them find strategic as well as potential marketing partners.
Saxony-Anhalt offers medtech startups ideal conditions
Sinja Lagotzki and Juan Sebastián Sánchez López are in no doubt that they “made exactly the right choice coming to Saxony-Anhalt.” Choosing to base themselves in the state capital was no accident. The Founders Playbook, a Magdeburg initiative, gave the two entrepreneurs some initial business-development pointers. Saxony-Anhalt also has a raft of funding programs designed to help startups. Otto von Guericke University (OvGU) has been bolstering medtech for many years. Both of In-line Med’s founders graduated from its international Master’s in Medical Systems Engineering. The two entrepreneurs are very close to breaking new ground thanks to Research Campus STIMULATE, one of Saxony-Anhalt’s twelve Centers of Excellence. A partnership between the university, Siemens Healthcare GmbH and the STIMULATE Association, it brings together interdisciplinary research and state-of-the-art technology. In-Line Med and STIMULATE both recently relocated to new offices at Magdeburg Port of Science. “The conditions for us as a medtech startup are perfect here,” says Lagotzki.
Mass-market assistance devices instead of costly custom solutions
The airy facility on the River Elbe now houses the first production-ready prototypes that InLine-Med co-developed with Magdeburg University Hospital’s Radiology Department. The In-Line Med FLEXSPINE range encompasses products for interventional – i.e. surgical – radiology for cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as interventional CT-assisted pain therapy. “We want to make products that are easy for doctors and nurses to use – universally applicable tools that are simple to integrate in existing processes,” explains Lagotzki. “We’re aiming for methods that are suitable for large-scale use.” She explains that for her, it’s about small, user-friendly devices with wider application potential as opposed to expensive custom robots for one type of intervention. InLine-Med developed a computer program – which also runs as a tablet app – that makes it easy for radiologists to treat patients straight from on-screen plans, doing away with costly, complex systems. “It ensures they can target exactly the right area inside the body rather than having to make several unnecessary punctures,” says Lagotzki, adding that physicians are already singing its praises. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from doctors telling us it’s great that we’re optimizing procedures using basic resources instead of robots.”
It’s encouraging news, and is spurring on the young entrepreneurs. Despite the impact of Covid-19 on regulatory approvals, supply chains and availability, the team continues to work on its solutions and hopes that “the delays won’t be too long.” Sinja Lagotzki is “impatient, but in a good way.” Meanwhile, she and her team are already under way with the next steps: production expansion and product certification.
Innovative prostheses, surgical robots, telemedicine - the possibilities of medical technology revolutionize diagnosis and therapy. Companies from Saxony-Anhalt are at the forefront of the development and manufacture of innovative medical technology products. > further information about the MedTech industry in Saxony-Anhalt