Hypervision Surgical has developed technology that makes surgery safer, faster and more accurate, leading to better patient outcomes. Supported with its commercialisation and IP strategy by Innovate UK EDGE, the start-up is pioneering AI-powered hyperspectral imaging, a technique that analyses a broad spectrum of light, not just the primary colours seen by the naked eye. This approach enables clinicians to use advanced computer-assisted tissue analysis in real time during surgery, for instance, when identifying diseased tissue to remove.
Hyperspectral imaging is a safe, non-contact, non-invasive optical image modality that creates diagnostic information about tissue properties. Combining that information with machine learning is ideal for objective tissue characterisation.
The surgical issue addressed by the innovative startup
Currently, surgeons rely on what they see with their naked eye, which can make it very difficult to establish if tissue is healthy or not and how much to remove.
Michael Ebner, CEO and co-founder of Hypervision Surgical, says the technology uses safe light and Artificial Intelligence to create a heatmap of tissue perfusion for easier visual inspection. This heatmap will give surgeons much more certainty about what tissue is healthy and what needs to be removed. “Every tissue has a purpose, and if you damage healthy tissue, it can lead to impairment of function. Our technology provides surgeons with enhanced vision to make decisions for patient safety with much higher confidence.”
The medical profession requires a better understanding of tissue characterisation to make surgery more precise and effective. Ebner says that, for example, two to three out of ten tumour operations1 require repeat surgery because some diseased tissue was left behind. This holds across surgical specialties, including brain, breast, and prostate cancer surgery.
The technology was initially created at King’s College London (KCL) in a research capacity, but in order to develop it as a medical device and have patient impact, industry collaboration was needed. So, in early 2020, Hypervision Surgical was formed as a spin-out from the King’s College research group.
Innovate UK EDGE assists with commercialisation and growth
Soon after, Innovate UK EDGE came on board to provide guidance on funding for further R&D work, to drive commercialisation of the technology and to help the company grow during Covid-19. EDGE has also supported Hypervision Surgical with two grants to harness its IP.
Further, the company secured an Innovate UK Innovation Scholars secondment award for KCL employee Conor Horgan to work full-time with Hypervision Surgical. Four roles have been created, plus three intern positions and two Masters students are involved in R&D at the company.
Ebner says EDGE support has been beneficial, particularly in terms of networking and commercialisation strategy. EDGE Innovation and Growth Specialist Richard Carey-Evans made introductions to several helpful people and institutions, such as the Department for International Trade. “Richard has helped us to establish fruitful relationships in and outside of the UK and supported us in securing helpful resources to develop our IP strategy that is core to the commercialisation of our technology,” says Ebner.
1 Stummer et al, Lancet Oncology, 2006; Fischer et al, BMC Cancer, 2017; Wilke et al, JAMA Surg, 2014; Isaacs et al, JAMA Surg, 2016;