Established by Assoc.Prof. Tunç Laçin, of Faculty of Medicine and Assoc. Prof. Gökhan Bora Esmer, of the Faculty of Engineering, Elaa Tech has developed a technology that will not tire patients and reduce diagnosis and treatment costs in cancer treatment.
With the support of Tübitak and developed by Assoc. Prof. Laçin and Assoc. Prof. Esmer, the platform makes it possible to remove parts from the lesion around 1 cm in the patient’s lung. Thus, the disease is diagnosed early, and the patient does not have to undergo repeated tomography and endoscopy.
We started the project with the idea of how to diagnose cancer early
I am a faculty member in Marmara University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Thoracic Surgery and I am performing lung cancer surgeries. We started this project with the idea of how to diagnose cancer early. As you know, fin the diagnosis of cancer, lung tomography is performed firstly and a lesion appears in that tomography. After we try to find out whether it is cancer or not. Since the lesions around 1 cm are very small, parts can not be removed and we cannot see them in endoscopy. We follow the patient and the disease by performing tomography 3-4 times during the year. If the piece grows, we suspect cancer and take the patient to surgery. The pathology examines the part that is removed surgically and makes decisions. If it is not a cancer cell, the patient is operated on for nothing. If so, however, it may be late for some time since we have moved to the next stage. Let's make such a system following: when the first tomography is taken, we would draw a path to the point where the lesion was seen using image processing technologies. I shared my opinion with Assoc.Prof. Bora Esmer. He is an electrical and electronic engineer and he said we can do it. With this project, we applied for the support of “TÜBİTAK 1512” and we took the budget of 130 thousand Turkish liras and turned the project into a product in two years.
We await the approval of CE certificate
We started the project in August 2017. In October 2017, we entered the Incubation Center of Teknopark Istanbul. As of September 2019, our project is over and we applied for the CE certificate. When we get the CE certificate, we will be able to sell to the whole world. We anticipate that we will be commercialized as of February 2020. In fact, we received an order for 100 patients from a private hospital in Turkey, but we're waiting for CE certificate. When it comes out, this hospital will start using the platform first.
System chooses the safest place where the needle is to be dipped
A cloud-based system that uses image processing technology. With the tomography images, we determine where the disease is located and say, "If the system that we developed in the field of lung cancer are used, diagnosis costs are reduced by 60 percent according to our calculations." We say to the surgeon, if you give the patient the needle from this point, you can hit the disease. We can say this with an accuracy rate of 98 percent. Because the system creates 3D images of the vascular access, it selects the safest place where the needle will be inserted
We started using the system
I started to use it in the Marmara University Pendik Training and Research Hospital where I worked and the accuracy of 98 percent comes from here. There are three different systems of American origin used in the world. Their accuracy rate remained at 75 percent. In those systems, they place an electromagnetic on the patient, they actually sell a device. We can say that our system consists of an algorithm, software or platform. Since the system is cloud-based, a doctor anywhere in the World can determine the right way to reach the mass that appears on tomography after downloading the system to his computer. Even a doctor in Chile can easily use it by downloading the platform on our website. No extra material or software will be needed. This will enable us to reach doctors all over the world quickly.
Existing systems are uncommon
The three modules currently used are not very common as they are very expensive systems. In Turkey, one of the systems costs 180 thousand dollars, the other is around 350 thousand dollars. There is no reimbursement in healthcare application or payment system. We will work with affordable costs per patient payment system. Because we won't have a device sale. We will install the system to the whole world in this way. What cost advantage will your system offer to hospitals? If you wish to answer this in reverse. If patients are diagnosed using the system we developed, according to our calculations, diagnostic costs are reduced by 60 percent.
Tech has started new projects
Assoc. Prof. Tunç Laçin stated that they received the support from Tübitak within its project named “Living Anatomy” and said, “We are currently continuing the R&D studies of the project. We are working on another project, hologram technology, and we aim to establish an education system on how we can teach anatomy to primary, middle and high school students. Thus, we do not tire the patients.
The system will also be used to diagnose other types of cancer
Since this is a platform technology, we can use this technology in any hollow organ. Because we will use the airway. There are endoscopy systems to reach the intestine or prostate. We want to develop the use of this platform in other organ systems as a second business idea.
We need investors to promote and improve the system
If we can find an investor, we plan to launch the product as a whole-body navigation. It's about capital. During the interviews we held at the international award ceremony we were awarded, they commented, "If you were in the USA, you would have received a very serious investment and launched for the whole body system." But very difficult to reach investors in Turkey. We spoke with a very large investor in Turkey, but they all remained far from health. Because the certification processes are taking too long, they are right. But our process has progressed very quickly, and our project has become a product that can obtain CE certification and be commercialized in two years. It is a great advantage that one of the project partners is an engineer and one is a surgeon. Teknopark Istanbul management is very supportive by seeing this difference. But it is very difficult to convince Turkish investors. Investors from abroad look at us differently because we are coming from Turkey. We actually need an investor to enter the American market. With the clinical study, getting a healthcare product into the American market starts from $ 500,000.
We are looking for an investor to enter the whole market, including America. In fact, when the sale of the product begins, we can create this capital within two years, but foreign competitors who see our platform can enter the market by developing different modules of the product. In this respect, we need not only an investor to provide funds, but also an investor who can mentorship in the commercialization process and marketing strategies. Technology Development Foundation of Turkey has confidence in us and provided funding. This support has accelerated our commercialization process and improved our vision. We are now talking about a 500 million dollar market annually with the project of the lung navigation system. Approximately 20 thousand bronchoscopies are performed all over the world. In addition to this, when we add prostate and colon cancer diagnoses, we see a bigger market. In this respect, we want to commercialize the product in 2020 worldwide and offer it for sale. Currently, our investor negotiations are continuing. If we can get results, we want to open the European office soon.