Mac grads make surgery safer Local start-up company uses their McMaster education to innovate surgery for the better

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One start-up, with help from McMaster community, is making surgery a little bit safer.

Mariner Endosurgery, previously known as Virtual Possibilities, won the $20,000 cash prize at last year’s Forge@Mac start-up competition, and received entry into one of The Forge’s incubator workspaces on James Street North.

The start-up targets over 1,400 operating rooms in North America, with the goal of enhancing the patient safety profile of minimally invasive procedures. The company developed a patented, prototyped medical device for minimally invasive surgery called LaparoGuard.

LaparoGuard is a soft-tissue surgical navigation platform that augments visualization by tracking and recording the fine movements of tools during surgery. It alerts medical teams when instruments approach the boundaries of an established safe zone, similar to the popular board game Operation, to prevent and decrease the risk of injury during surgery.

Since the competition, the group has progressed forward in their successes having recently completed an investment round featuring prominent medical device investors and renowned surgeons from the local area.

McMaster has been intertwined several times in the career journey of Mitch Wilson, president and chief operating officer of Mariner Endosurgery. Wilson completed a four-year life sciences degree at McMaster and worked as a teacher before starting his Master of Business Administration at the DeGroote School of Business. It was there where he met one of his future business partners, Dr. David Langlois.

“You cannot be a master of all trades. Understand and embrace your key competencies, and address deficiencies by surrounding yourself with the right people who possess skill sets you lack.”
Mitch Wilson
President and Chief Operating Officer of Mariner Endosurgery 

When speaking about his formal education at McMaster, he noted that completing his MBA presented him with opportunities that propelled him in the right direction as a future entrepreneur.

“Being a student was an advantage — there is less risk signalled when meetings and opportunities are framed as a student looking to learn more. DeGroote’s MBA program with Management of Innovation and New Technologies specialization provided ample opportunities to both learn current best management practices regarding new ventures, and the supportive ecosystem ensured plenty of opportunities to apply that learning to Mariner,” said Wilson.

Wilson’s unique education background led him to connect with the right people and carve out a unique role in his start-up.

“[Our product] LaparoGuard is the brain child of Dr. David Langlois. Dave built early prototypes, connected with me at the Synapse Life Science Competition [at DeGroote], and together we began building out the company,” Wilson said.

Considering the surging popularity for science students to later become entrepreneurs, and noting the induction of programs such as Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization, Wilson offers potent advice for current students concerning interdisciplinary learning.

“You cannot be a master of all trades. Understand and embrace your key competencies, and address deficiencies by surrounding yourself with the right people who possess skill sets you lack.”

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