Plenty of room for customization

The MBI Life Sciences & Health program helped vascular surgeon Mark Vrancken Peeters and his business partner carry their innovation, one-handed suturing, a big step further. It also helped him advance his personal development. “I am better at taking the lead than I realized.”

For centuries, surgeons have been suturing wounds with two hands, but Vrancken Peeters, 44, has developed a device that can be operated with only one. It resembles a pair of tweezers and, after it has been positioned correctly, all the surgeon has to do is press a button. “I came up with the idea a few years ago, but I had no experience with marketing my innovation.” The MBI Life Sciences & Health program that commenced in early 2014 helped Vrancken Peeters and his business partner Lieuwke de Jong well on their way.

During the program, Vrancken Peeters learned all about product development, marketing and financing, as well as leadership, entrepreneurship, distribution and patent applications. “They’re all things I had little to do with as a vascular surgeon. The beauty of the program is that it provides plenty of room for customization.” Vrancken Peeters wanted to learn all about marketing because he was eager to know how to best approach his own critical professional group, the vascular surgeons. He was then connected up with experienced coaches who are very adept at exactly that.

“The program also stimulates your personal development. I discovered, for instance, that I am a real perfectionist, and not just in the operating room. When I was still working as a vascular surgeon, my leadership qualities were never truly tested. Frankly, I didn’t really think I had it in me. But this program taught me that I am better at taking the lead than I realized.” Vrancken Peeters recently stopped practicing as a vascular surgeon in order to focus fully on Mellon Medical together with Lieuwke de Jong. Mellon Medical as a company focuses on medical innovations in the field of surgical wound stitching.

“Our study trip to the United States made a big impression on us,” says Vrancken Peeters. “How often do you get the chance to talk with Harvard University professors for a whole day about innovative business cases?” Through the MBI Life Sciences & Health program, Vrancken Peeters and De Jong also visited the University of California, Irvine, where they were even asked to come back and pitch their venture. That produced an advantageous contact with a potential investor.

Mellon Medical’s research has shown that one-handed suturing is more precise and at least 40 percent quicker than the traditional method. “That can benefit patients’ health during transplant procedures, such as kidneys or livers, because vessels can be unclamped sooner. Patients will suffer fewer complications, which in turn leads to substantial savings.”
What phase is the new product currently in? “We are so pleased with the test models that we will soon get to the design freeze stage. We will then seek a manufacturer and hopefully be granted CE marking certification in 2016. Once that’s done, we can apply the technique to patients. After all, that’s the whole purpose of the exercise.”