Invest NI backed innovation aids training of keyhole surgeons


Belfast-based Endosim has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to develop a unique training device that has been endorsed by the influential Association of Surgeons in Great Britain and Ireland and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Endosim’s Laprotrain device is a portable simulator that abdominal surgeons, particularly those recently qualified, can use in the office or at home to develop their keyhole surgery skills. The device, now being made available by the Royal College at regional training centres throughout Britain, was developed with R&D and export marketing assistance from Invest NI. Invest NI’s support includes part funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

The company is projecting sales worth around £500,000, mostly outside Northern Ireland, during 2011.

Assistance for Endosim was announced by Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development, at the launch of the Laprotrain device by the team which has set up the company to market it. The team includes businessmen Robert Bailie and Ian Niblock and consultants Prof Walter Prendiville and Dr Ray O’Sullivan.

Tracy Meharg said: “Laprotrain is a highly innovative device which has substantial export potential and will also contribute to Northern Ireland’s international standing as an important European centre for the development of medical devices. This pioneering technology represents a quantum leap in training for keyhole surgery.

“Our support has been tailored to assist the company in developing the product and then to bring it to market through participation in a range of export-focused initiatives including our trade missions and exhibitions. Feedback from the company’s participation in these activities has been extremely positive.

“Another aspect of this leading edge technology development is the work it is providing for other local companies including Denroy Plastics in Bangor, which is manufacturing the main plastic device, and Evasson Product Design in Lurgan, providing essential design guidance and practical support.”

Mr Bailie, outlining the benefits of the device, said: “Laprotrain is a fully, functional, take home endoscopic trainer which provides a realistic simulated means by which surgeons can develop their skills. It provides the perfect image without the need for a light source.

“The innovative device draws on the experience in keyhole surgery and the marketing of medical devices gained over many decades by our team of directors. What is does is to offer an efficient and highly cost effective alternative to existing training techniques and equipment.

“Laprotrain’s portability enables both experienced and new surgeons to take the device home, plug it into a television and then use it to develop their dexterity within a realistic environment.

“Existing training devices for endoscopic surgeons either depend on computer systems that do not provide a realistic surgical environment or require equipment only available in a hospital setting. We believe that Laprotrain has the potential to revolutionise training for endoscopic surgeons worldwide because of its portability and the realistic conditions that it offers,” he added.