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Enhancing Surgical Outcomes with Transformative Adhesive Materials
Episode

Natalie Artzi, co-founder and CEO at BioDevek

Enhancing Surgical Outcomes with Transformative Adhesive Materials

In this episode of the Outcomes Rocket Medtech podcast, we are excited to feature Dr. Natalie Artzi, co-founder and CEO at BioDevek. Natalie shares how she started from engineering materials to make airplanes go at supersonic speed to creating the next generation of adhesive materials, one of which can be injected and sprayer for better wound closure to prevent leakages during surgeries. She discusses how her company’s tissue-responsive biomaterial can improve outcomes for both patients and hospitals and how it enables the natural healing mechanism of the body to take place, resulting in enhanced wound healing.

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Enhancing Surgical Outcomes with Transformative Adhesive Materials

About Dr. Natalie Artzi

Dr. Artzi is a co-founder and CEO at BioDevek. She’s also a professor at Harvard Medical School and a researcher at the Harvard MIT Division for Health Sciences and Technology. Natalie has specialized in biomaterials, and she focuses on the design of smart adhesive materials that are able to sense their environment and react integrated manner with different target tissues to induce healing and reduce surgical complications. She received her Bachelor of Science and Chemical Engineering, as well as a Ph.D. in the Chemical Engineering Department at the Technion in Israel.

Enhancing Surgical Outcomes with Transformative Adhesive Materials with Natalie Artzi, co-founder and CEO at BioDevek: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Enhancing Surgical Outcomes with Transformative Adhesive Materials with Natalie Artzi, co-founder and CEO at BioDevek: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Paul Grand:
Hey everyone, thank you for tuning in again! This is Paul Grand on the Outcomes Rocket MedTech Podcast. I am very excited to have you here with us again today. If you haven't heard me before, I'm the CEO of MedTech Innovator, which is the world's largest medical technology accelerator. You can learn more about us at MedTechInnovators.Org. There's a link to that in our show notes. In this series, I've been interviewing medtech innovators and stakeholders who are working to improve outcomes in health care. There'll be a link at our show notes to a post about this episode on LinkedIn, and I invite you to join the conversation by clicking that link, sharing your thoughts. Tell us what you think. I want to know what you think about the podcast, what you think about this episode. If you want to talk more to our guest, I'll tag her and the post and you can share this journey with her as well. So let's go ahead and meet our guest for today, Natalie Artzi. Dr. Artzi is a co-founder and CEO at BioDevek. She's also a professor at Harvard Medical School and a researcher at the Harvard MIT Division for Health Sciences and Technology. Natalie has specialized in biomaterials, and she focuses on the design of smart adhesive materials that are able to sense their environment and react integrated manner with different target tissues to induce healing and reduce surgical complications. She received her Bachelor of Science and Chemical Engineering, as well as a Ph.D. in the Chemical Engineering Department at the Technion in Israel. Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket MedTech, Natalie.

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
Thank you so much, Paul. It's really great to be here today.

Paul Grand:
It's great to have you here and listeners, in addition to everything I just told you about Natalie. She's also one of our five finalists in this year's MedTech Innovator program out of over 1100 companies, which is a huge achievement. I'm really excited to share your story, Natalie, with our listeners today. So let's start off and just begin with the inspiration for you personally. What inspires your work in the medtech industry?

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
Oh, great question, Paul. I think since I was a little girl, I really love science. I was curious about how things work, and I love tinkering with materials and all the instruments that I found in the house. I started studying chemical engineering and materials science, and towards the end of my Ph.D., I realized that while I loved engineering materials to make airplanes go at supersonic speed, I really wanted to invent the technologies that can help patients that will have clinical impact. So for my postdoctoral studies, I joined Professor Elazar Edelman's lab at MIT, where I started working on biomaterials, which was fascinating. I could integrate my knowledge in materials science with biology and medicine, and there I really had the opportunity to develop smart adhesive materials that interact with the tissues in order to protect wounds and enhance clinical outcomes, really to eliminate complications associated with surgeries.

Paul Grand:
Fantastic. That's great. I love the background and that you've been interested in this since you were a little girl. So now you're not a little girl anymore and got some pretty exciting things that you're working on at BioDevek. So I'd love to hear about the founding of BioDevek. Tell me how the company got started and came together in the first place.

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
Yeah. So during my postdoctoral studies are really working in this field of biomaterials. And then I started my lab at Brigham and Women's Hospital, which is part of Harvard Medical School, and that really enabled me to interact with clinicians in order to understand the unmet clinical needs they view as the most pressing ones so that we, as biomedical engineers, would be able to work on it and come up with solutions. I remember talking to the head of the division of colorectal cancer the Brigham, and he told me that he was treating a patient that had colon cancer and had just undergone surgery waiting to recover and receive his first chemotherapy dose. That patient, however, suffered from leakage from the suture line in his column, leading to gut content leakage drainage procedure and really delayed the chemotherapy in eight weeks. At that point, he was really concerned that the tumor will come back before this patient can even get the chemotherapy. I was really shocked. I thought, how is it even possible that despite all the technological advancements, the incredible, potent drugs that we developed to treat such complicated disease, we're still struggling with better wound closure following surgery. So I set it up for myself as a goal to become really an expert in the field, come up with better solutions that will allow patients to come out of the surgical room, happy knowing that the procedure is behind them, and not to be worried about the potential complications that may arise. So that was really why we wanted to start BioDevek, by the way, in Hebrew means adhesive, so it's bioadhesive that can be injected or sprayed and applied in every procedure and surgery in order to prevent complications in patients and really to make a big clinical impact,

Paul Grand:
That's terrific and thank you also for giving us the origin of the name. That's really great to know. I didn't even know that, so I learned something new today. That's great. Thanks, Natalie. So that's how the company started. I know that you're working on some really exciting materials, so let's talk a little more specifically about them. What unmet need does the product that you're developing address? You know, what does it do? Tell us how it works and what makes it special?

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
So, yeah, it's the first indication we were really aiming to eliminate complications following poly section in the colon during colonoscopy procedure. The idea with colonoscopy is to detect early polyps and reset them before they become cancerous. And since it takes between seven to 10 years for a benign polyp to become cancerous, early detection and resection can virtually eliminate colon cancer. To me, this is incredible. This is an area where we can make a big impact. There's no other cancer that you have such good means to eliminate altogether. This realization, in fact, led to an increase in the number of colonoscopy procedures. There are 20 million procedures that are conducted every year in the U.S. alone. And by the way, out of these patients, six hundred thousand will be identified with a polyp that will have to be resected. Out of this, 10 percent will suffer from bleeding either during the procedure or up to seven days after the procedure. In some cases, will require emergency surgery, and several percent of them will be readmitted to the hospital and hospitalized for at least one night. It's more than 40,000 patients that are otherwise healthy that will find themselves hospitalized after a routine procedure that is only supposed to protect them from future cancer. We want to absolutely prevent that with our technology, and we thought that this is an area where we can make an immediate impact and then expand to other applications. So what's unique about our material? Our material can interact in a graded manner with each tissue and patient, which means that if the tissue surface is different and we know this is different even within different areas in the colon and of course, between patients, we need a material that can sense that interact well in order to coat and stick to to the area of the resection and not fail and just slip away. So this material can be applied very easily using the existing endoscope and improve the quality of life of patients, improve outcomes at a reduced cost. In fact, this readmission to the hospital cost about five hundred million a year that we can absolutely save. So this is a unique material that can be applied directly and does not require any other procedure, in fact, for acute bleeding. There are some materials that can stop the bleeding immediately. However, they cannot guarantee the bleeding will not happen a few days later. In other cases where polyps are small, clinicians will apply small clips through the endoscope. However, they need between six to 12 clips per one polyp, which requires a lot of time. It's costly. Those clips actually fall off and impede wound healing. In larger polyps that have even more complications, those clips are too small to be applied. So in fact, those wounds that are really problematic remain uncovered, and the patient is sent home really with a high risk for perforation or bleeding, and that's what we want to prevent.

Paul Grand:
It's a huge difference because I think about colonoscopy is I think a lot of people do as being a procedure where people go in and, you know, they come out after a nice sleep and everything's fine. But as you said, when you actually look at the 20 million-plus colonoscopies in the U.S., unfortunately, with complications, you've got a lot of patients who aren't leaving in such a great condition, and they need those clips because they've had perforations or worse. And then then I can't believe that number that you mentioned earlier, that seven percent then have to go on who've had polyps removed to be readmitted back to the hospital. That's actually a huge number, a huge percentage for what I consider, and I think probably a lot of people have considered to be a fairly benign procedure. So that's really good to know. And as you mentioned those clips, although I know they've been getting better and better over the years, you know, as you said, they fall off and they have problems. And ultimately, if you can just spray on a material that is able to ensure healing, that's a huge advancement. So really exciting that you're doing that. And of course, one of the things that made us really interested in you in the first place. So maybe you could just tell us a little more about it because you've done such a good job already of covering really what this value proposition is like. Maybe just give us the quick sum-up version of the value prop again. So what are the main things that you're going to be able to do at BioDevek?

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
I think we can have immediate market penetration that will really transform the quality of life for patients, improve outcomes following surgery and really reduce costs both for the patient and the hospital. But I think what we really care about is making an impact on patients, and I think that's the biggest thing we want to focus on.

Paul Grand:
That's great. So that's the triple aim. You're covering all three, all three of those things. So that's fantastic. Thanks for giving us some more detail on that. So let's move on a little bit. You've already told us again how you're different than some of the competition and some of the standard of care I should say that's out there. Would you say that you completely displace the clips that are in the market today? Or do you see this as something that's going to be done initially with clips? Or is it a standalone?

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
What we've seen actually in a large animal studies is that when we apply the clips and the material on top, it actually helps the clips remain in place and not fall off. So this is actually an opportunity for clinicians to use both of them. I believe that some clinicians will want initially to continue using clips. I don't necessarily think that we need that. In fact, the larger polyps that are more problematic, the clips cannot be used. So I think if we have a solution, the BioDevek material that can be sprayed and protect the lesion, there's no need for the clips that in fact exert a lot of stress on the tissue, a lot of tension, and impedes healing. So to me, if we can have a comparable material that has similar mechanical properties to that of the tissue and it covers it, it enables the natural healing mechanism of our body to take place and we don't need to interfere with that.

Paul Grand:
Yeah, no. I've heard that expression now many times from people who've talked to me about BioDevek along the way. In addition to you, you know, we've talked to others and I keep hearing those words again like we don't want to interfere with wound healing. And I think that's really a key here. So let's talk a little more about this journey because you've been on a journey. As an innovator, you know you're coming from academia where you know that people always say, Oh, it's great because you can learn and work and do your research in a safe environment. But there's nothing safe about a startup company. You're creating something and you're taking risks, so I'd love to hear, you know, along the way, have there been any, you know, real surprises, any big setbacks that you've experienced, and what was a key learning from that?

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
Well, yeah. So I tend to say that I really love challenges, but there was one setback that was really difficult. A couple of years ago, exactly when COVID started hitting, we were actually in the middle of negotiations with one of the leading companies, one of the products that we developed in biotech and we were so excited after so many years of work, really understanding the science and the mechanism behind how the technology works, we got to the point where we almost see the light at the end of the tunnel and just right there. It was the worst timing for us COVID started. A lot of companies actually backed off and our partners were one of them and it all suddenly halted. It came to a stop. It was really hard, but I think that you know, we believe in our product. We demonstrated very good results performance in large animals, and I'm sure that we will find the right partner for that product as well. In the meantime, we made sure we continue to work hard, you know, fueled with a lot of energy and motivation to make an impact. And here we now find ourselves, you know, the final competition for Medtech Innovator. We're extremely excited and there's always something good around the corner.

Paul Grand:
I like the way you put that. I agree with you completely. There are always new things, new good things around the corner. And for every time in my career that I've had a setback, there's always something that came up where I go, God, I'm really glad that happened because, you know, things worked out the way they were meant to be. So that's great to hear. Great attitude. And I know you're talking to multiple partners. There's a lot of people out there who you're working with and potential partners in some cases. And I know we can't get into details about those today, but just, you know, again, with a polymer material like this, with a biomaterial that has these kinds of properties, you could potentially have, you know, a platform here with many, many different partners and many opportunities. So that's the right thing to be doing. So let's move on just a little bit. You know, you mentioned those animal studies, and I know that's something that you're excited about, Natalie. So can you tell us a little more about those chronic animal studies and why they're so important?

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
Yeah. So we conducted the studies in large animals, in pigs that really represent, you know, very close to the human gastrointestinal tract. So it was really important for us to see how the material performs not only in the acute stage, but also chronic so over time. And I was really excited to see that the promise of our technology starts materializing. We were really hoping to see that after a few days, you know, in the first week or so, we will see some improvement in how the lesion looks. We were hoping, of course, to prevent bleeding. Not to see any issues with gut content leakage because of perforation. During the procedure, many times one can puncture a hole in the intestine, so the material should prevent that content leakage. And we were really holding our breath with every experiment, and we were so happy to see that our material was able to prevent complications in 100 percent of the cases. But what was really making me happy is that after five days, we could barely identify the site of the resection. The wound there healed completely. And the first thing we thought was maybe we're looking at the wrong place, but we went on and on and we just couldn't find the lesion. That was incredible. We didn't expect to see such enhanced wound healing while in the control groups were there either clips or no DioDevek material. You could still see the red tissue inflamed after the procedure. So that was extremely exciting. It was really exceeding my expectations. So it's always great to see, you know, the knowledge, the science, and then years of development, end up being so successful.

Paul Grand:
And I know that that evidence is exactly what people are looking for, whether it's potential partners, investors and others, you know, they want to see the evidence, they want to see the data that shows this is going to work and not just, you know, not just on a bench. They want to see it in a living system. And that's really exciting that we've been able to achieve that. So congratulations on that. We've talked about a lot, Natalie. We covered a ton of topics here already before we conclude, I'd love you just to kind of think back again, reflect on the conversation, you know, are there any closing thoughts you want our listeners to take away when they think about BioDevek? What do we want them to remember? And also, where can our Outcomes Rocket Medtech listeners get in touch with you if they want to follow up, if they want to write a check and be an investor, if they, you know, whatever it might be, how do they find you and get in touch with you? So closing thought and where should they find you?

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
Yeah, I think that people should pursue their passion dare to do things that are completely new, not be afraid where there's absolutely no solution or if they start a completely new field. I think that's where inventions arise, and I'm really grateful for being able to run a multidisciplinary research lab at Harvard and to translate the technologies that we see promise into the clinic, look forward to making an impact on people's lives and to become role models to the next generation of scientists and entrepreneurs. I would love to follow up with listeners that are interested in the technology. There is my lab website, NatalieArtzi.com. My email is natalie.artzi@biodevek.com. Also, for people that will be at the MedTech Innovator Conference, I'll be there in person. This is very exciting and I love to meet people to follow up with conversations.

Paul Grand:
Fantastic. Well, I'm looking forward to being there in person too, Natalie. What a great opportunity to finally be back together after so long. The Medtech Conference, where we'll be holding the finals on September 29th, is a unique opportunity. It's where the leaders and the medtech industry get together every year. Its advanced conference, their annual meeting. And we just have a great opportunity as an industry to get together and in the case of Medtech Innovator, all of our CEOs, you know, as many as possible because of COVID, of course of some limitations, but as many as possible are going to be there in person, including you, which is really exciting. Again, after all this time in COVID, we spent a ton of time on Zoom together, but it's just not the same, right? So I'm looking forward to being there in person and I'm most excited about those finals. You're in there with some tough competition, Natalie. Four other great companies, all of whom really deserve to be in those finals, you know you're all winners in effect, by being in the finals out of 1100 companies. But I'm extremely excited to see you get up there and give us that presentation for the listeners. Make sure you tune in to that finals competition or if this is after the 29th and you're hearing about it, that's fine, too. You can go to medtechinnovator.org, which is our website, and click on the banner for the competitions. You can also go to medtechconference.com. That's the website for the conference, and you can read about the competition and also hopefully watch it. You can stream it live. And if you're one of our attendees at the conference, or if you are part of the medtech innovator ecosystem, meaning your reviewers, judges, one of our partners, one of our 425 alumni, or in our cohort, you know you can vote too. So we'd love to have you there because it's the audience that chooses the winner, Natalie, as you know. It's not the judge is up on the stage, but it's the audience. So I hope you'll tune in and watch and support. And of course, if you like BioDevek and Natalie's story, I hope you vote for her in the finals. First place is three hundred and fifty thousand dollars of non-dilutive funding. So really exciting stuff. Again, thank you, Natalie, for being here.

Dr. Natalie Artzi:
Thank you so much, Paul. It was a great pleasure speaking to you today.

Paul Grand:
All right, listeners. So that's today's show. If you want to learn more, go to OutcomesRocket.Health. Also, if you again search for us on LinkedIn, if you just find Outcomes Rocket, you'll find the post for today's show. Click on that link and I invite you to chime in. I want to hear what you think about BioDevek. Reach out to Natalie, ask her questions. We want you to be part of the conversation. There's also a bunch of other great podcasts on the same network here. We've got our nursing podcast where you can learn about nursing innovation. We've got Outcomes Rocket Pharma on the latest what's happening in the biopharma industry, of course, Outcomes Rocket MedTech, my show, and the original Outcomes Rocket hosted by Saul himself, Saul Martinez, talking to leaders and shakers in the health care industry. So thanks for tuning in today. Hope to see you all again very soon, and please do join us for the MedTech Innovator Finals on September 29th. Go to medtechinnovator.org for more. Thanks all.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • When there are challenges, think positively and continue to work hard. 
  • There’s always something good around the corner.
  • People are looking for evidence, the data that shows the product works.
  • People should pursue their passion dare to do things that are completely new, not be afraid where there’s absolutely no solution or if they start a completely new field.  That’s where inventions arise,

 

Resources

Websites

Email

Dr. Natalie Artzi: natalie.artzi@biodevek.com