Advancing Endoscopic Suturing – Aurora Medical Technologies

by | Jun 7, 2024 | Companies, Fogarty Innovation

One of the best ways for doctors to diagnose and treat gastrointestinal disease is through endoscopy – a procedure in which an endoscope – a long flexible tube with a tiny light and camera – is inserted through a natural opening into the body to examine the digestive tract. The same procedure can be used to treat conditions; by equipping the endoscope with a suturing device, doctors can repair abnormal openings or perforations, close surgical wounds, or bring tissue together in resections and bariatric procedures.

While this minimally-invasive approach is good for patients, the endoscope operates in a tight, awkward space that poses unique difficulties for the interventional gastroenterologists and endoscopic surgeons performing procedures. Some of the biggest challenges involve visualization, the ability to confirm suture depth, and the durability of the sutures placed. In addition, most currently available tools involve complex procedural ergonomics that require a steep learning curve.

Aurora Medical Technologies, one of the newest members of Fogarty Innovation’s company accelerator program, aims to remake that paradigm. Led by co-founder and CEO Brian Edge, Aurora is developing a novel device that makes endoscopic suturing simple and intuitive. With ultrasound compatibility and the ability to deploy multiple suture anchors in a single linear pass, the technology also adds utility by enabling endoscopists to bring lumens together, and to confirm that sutures have a full-thickness tissue purchase.  “Aurora’s novel design has the potential to democratize endoluminal and transmural endoscopic tissue connection and closure,” said Edge. 

Recognition of the unmet need came from the first-hand experience of Aurora’s clinical co-founders, Vivek Kumbhari MD, PhD, chairman of the Aurora’s board and a professor of medicine and chair of the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Mayo Clinic in Florida; and Petros Benias MD, CMO of Aurora and VP of GI Clinical Operations at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. After struggling with the limitations of commercialized endoscopic suturing technologies, the two gastroenterology leaders decided to design a better approach. Their result not only addresses those limitations, but provides valuable new utilities that have the potential to make the technology a unified solution across surgical platforms and techniques in the future

To aid in their effort, Khumbhari and Benias brought in Scott Dowd, a longtime associate with a background in early technology adoption and a commercial perspective honed by working in market development for Medtronic, Covidien, and US Endoscopy among others. Dowd heads up corporate relations for Aurora.  

The heart of an innovator

Edge joined the team with the mission of turning the promising prototypes and ideas into a company. With an MS from the USC Alfred E. Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Services, and an MBA from MIT, Edge brings both a large company perspective and the heart of an innovator to his leadership role. His background includes market development and sales at Boston Scientific, six years at Medtronic where he served as principal, global innovation product management/global marketing, and an executive director, global marketing role at Organon. 

Despite his long and successful career with large strategics, Edge has always had a passion for innovation. While at Boston Scientific, he participated in the Stanford Biodesign’s graduate certificate program, which at the time comprised several classes over an 18-month timeframe. “I had this yearning to understand everything about medtech beyond commercialization, which was my focus at work. I knew there was so much more behind the scenes, and I joined Biodesign because it was the best program to help me learn it all,” he described. 

The experience was a turning point in his career. “It was a new way of thinking,” he recalled. “From that time forward, I evaluated everything in terms of the unmet need – what are we solving for, why does it matter, and what are the perspectives of all involved stakeholders.” 

Becoming an entrepreneur

Less than a decade later, Edge decided to take the leap into the startup world. “The opportunity to lead Aurora was the perfect confluence of the right technology with the right team at the right time,” he said. “I’m excited about the process of ‘building something from nothing’ with a team that can bring this solution to fruition and have a positive impact on patient care.”

The combination of his Biodesign training and career experience makes Edge well-positioned for this role. “There’s a real benefit to being able to look at a startup endeavor with the lens of a large strategic,” he said. “I understand how big companies look at innovation, how they view opportunities, and how they evaluate product development and portfolio fit.” 

Building a company

Despite his team’s breadth of experience, Edge appreciates the challenges of creating a strategy from scratch. “There is no operating manual for this,” he said. “We came to Fogarty Innovation because we know how important it is to surround yourself with people who can provide the mentorship and guidance we need to figure it out.” 

He continued, “One of the most important things in leading this company is to make sure we have all aspects of our business on track,” he said. “We want people to challenge us and say, ‘Have you thought about this?’ And so I see this our time at Fogarty Innovation as a boot camp to ensure that we are disciplined across all functions and optimally prepared to raise money and accelerate our trajectory.”

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