Project Moray revolutionizes mitral valve replacement
Once only an open heart procedure, Project Moray revolutionizes mitral valve replacement by offering surgeons a catheterized approach to an otherwise traumatic operation. Behind this venture are the esteemed roboticist Phillip Laby and business partner Mark Barrish, a highly specialized IP attorney. Disruptive ideas require careful planning and proper execution. The team reached out to Trig to design the intricate piece of equipment. Precision and intuitive use are key focus points in creating a surgical tool interacting with a delicate organ like the heart, especially with a skill-intensive entry point such as the femoral artery.
The Inside Story
Trig Principal Ty Hagler has known Phillip Laby for several years. Laby is a highly skilled roboticist who was a founding engineer that helped lay the groundwork in robotic surgery through pioneering work at Computer Motion (which eventually merged with Intuitive Surgical) and developed the first minimally invasive surgical robots. His cofounder, Mark Barrish, is a highly specialized medical device IP attorney - both live in the San Francisco area.
Phillip had worked with Trig on 1-2 medical device human factors engagements before pulling us into his own startup, Project Moray, which allows cardiac surgeons to take a formerly open heart procedure of mitral valve replacement and have it be a catheterized process.
The interventional approach to Mitral valve replacement is notably tricky because getting alignment through the femoral artery in the thigh isn't a straight shot. One of the many great challenges inherent in designing this device was the necessity of precise navigation.
Taking on difficult challenges leads to extraordinary results.
“One key to forming a successful venture is to involve, the talent and resources needed to form a common vision at an early stage. To define this vision, it is essential to create materials that focus a team, educates potential investors, and that helps frame the company’s narrative. Trig’s talented, timely, and cost effective group played an essential role for Project Moray by providing industrial design efforts and producing graphical representations of the Moray vision and future products.”
— Phillip Laby
Laby and Barrish are developing a robotically controlled serpentine mechanism with many degrees of actuation that can perfectly position the distal end of the device in the correct anatomical location. (Play the Intro video below to see its movement in action. It’s otherworldly.) The level of precision required for these kinds of advanced surgical techniques are reaching levels that average humans are not naturally capable of performing without technological aid, and the Moray elegantly bridges that gap.
The Trig team came in to work with Project Moray on ergonomics and form factors for the robotic enclosure. Trig helped the team to understand the electromechanical constraints, sterile field considerations, and surgeon user interface expectations. Human-centered design considerations keep the end users in focus so that the device would be intuitive for surgeons and ease the experience of working within tight, winding conditions.
Once prototypes were constructed, Trig developed multiple test conditions to explore many possible scenarios that users could find themselves faced with during surgery so that no consideration would be left unchecked.
Further into the creation process Project Moray then came back to Trig for further concept refinement for polished renderings of the converged design. An expert clinician from Duke University who was familiar with the procedure was pulled in by Trig to consult on accuracy of the concept visuals. That level of refinement aided the design and development of the Moray - as well as communication to prospective investors, lead users, and healthcare system stakeholders.
Intro to Project Moray
Robotics in Healthcare
The healthcare industry is going through an exciting time in respect to robotic innovations. Surgical tools are advancing in ability unlike any other time in human history. One of Trig’s many goals in working with health product designs is consideration not only towards what a device can do, but what the user experience is like, and what the experience is like for care recipients when the product is being used on them by a professional.
While techniques and equipment across the board are decreasing the risks of open heart surgery, it’s still a majorly invasive procedure. Project Moray requires a very small incision comparatively, and an entry point in the thigh leaves the heart unexposed to airborne pathogens throughout the duration of the procedure. This technique has been developed by internationalists, such as with balloon angioplasty and stent technology, and more recently a field called Structural Heart is the specific subsection of the interventionist world that we are aiding with our robotic delivered valve approach. The Structural Heart field is broad and in its early stages and in the process of booming. Several of the specific techniques and procedures need the aid of robotics to be more reliable and/or to be available to the masses.
Having a completely alternative surgical technique allows for more options to both doctors and patients. Someone who may not be a candidate for an open heart procedure may be better suited for a Project Moray surgery.
Industrial design looks at the entire picture of product usage and its effects because only advancing abilities while letting experience fall behind is not pushing innovation to its limits. We do better because we can do better. Project Moray is a testament to what can be achieved when innovators join forces to put their very best ideas together and into production. This isn’t just about making products. It’s a joint effort to make the world a safer, healthier place.