S1E9 - Briteseed’s Burgeoning Smart Surgical Tools Stop Unsafe Bleeding

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'Meet the Innovators' Season 1, Episode 9: A video interview with Jonathan Gunn, PhD, JD, co-founder and CEO, Briteseed LLC. Chicago-based Briteseed LLC is developing the next generation of smart surgical tools that can provide visual, anatomical information to surgeons in real-time. In addition to improving patient outcomes, Jonathan believes Briteseed could offer significant cost savings for payors and providers impacted by non-reimbursable costs.


Meet Jonathan Gunn, PhD, JD. Jonathan is Co-founder and CEO of Briteseed LLC, a Chicago-based medical device company developing not just “the next generation of smart surgical tools” but, adds Jonathan, “tools that can actually provide visual, anatomical information to surgeons in real-time.” One out of every 30 laparoscopic surgeries result in accidental blood vessel injury; and for every vessel injury, one in five patients face life-threatening morbidity or even death. In addition to improving patient outcomes, Jonathan believes Briteseed’s smart surgical tools could offer significant cost savings for payors and providers impacted by non-reimbursable costs of around $210,000 for each preventable incident.

Jonathan’s entrance into medical devices was triggered by a personal experience. He was on the fast-track to becoming a lawyer when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Jonathan acknowledges that, “it had a profound effect on my family, as well as myself; and I decided to dedicate myself to advancing new technologies in the oncology space.” After spending a number of years conducting primary research, with an emphasis on intraoperative imaging, he joined Northwestern University’s medical innovation program NUvention, where he would meet a group of innovators that would later commit themselves to his mission.

The impetus for creating Briteseed would come later during an operation at Northwestern Memorial, after Jonathan and his soon-to-be Co-founders witnessed an inadvertent cut, to no fault of the skilled surgeon. Recognizing a clear unmet need, “we thought: boy, if only the tools could be smarter, if only the facilities that we offer these talented surgeons could be better, we could have better patient outcomes,” Jonathan explains. With that, the innovators began to create the foundation for a technology that de-risks the different aspects of creating a sophisticated optical technology platform in complex areas like intraoperative imaging and tool development. Today, Jonathan says, they are setting their sights higher and are involved in creating technologies with disruptive sensing and guidance capabilities, in an attempt to “do for the robotic surgery industry what the sensors on cars have done for the autonomous vehicle industry.”

Briteseed’s first step toward that ambitious goal is its flagship device system, SafeSnips, which integrates biosensors into minimally invasive surgical tools, and boasts artificial-vision assistance to help surgeons quickly identify landmarks and safely navigate vital structures. Its all-in-one system boasts the benefit of cautery, dissection and optical tissue sensing. Unlike existing blood vessel detection systems, it does not require contrast agents or an additional imaging system to identify hidden blood vessels. And in the spirit of autonomous vehicles, Briteseed’s SafeSnips-enabled tools will notify surgeons in real-time before an unsafe cut into a blood vessel occurs.

Over the last 18 months, Briteseed’s highly-anticipated artificial intelligence program has exceeded expectations and now, using machine learning and deep-learning they are seeing accuracy rates of more than 99.8% in identifying critical tissues. Emboldened by their success thus far, Jonathan shares that they are developing “a Briteseed ‘smart vision engine’ that uses close to 30,000 data points from studies that we’ve conducted to identify critical vessels in all kinds of circumstances: enflamed tissue, re-operations and so on.” He concludes: “we have a really unique and novel approach to identifying these tissues, and we’ve got a hugely enabling technology driving these products forward.”

Briteseed LLC is well on its way to becoming the cornerstone of next-generation surgical systems after winning a first-place award from Photonics West 2015 and the top prize from the MedTech Innovator Competition at EMT Summit 2014. From the entire MedTech Strategist team, we offer Jonathan and his team congratulations and best of luck!


Author's Note: Briteseed LLC was an invited Alumni of MedTech Innovator to attend the MedTech Innovator Pitch Event & Stage Competition that took place April 2018 at MedTech Strategist’s Innovation Summit Dublin, Ireland, a global medical device investment and networking conference.

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