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Awtar's FlexDex™ One of Most Promising Inventions

An invention by ME Assistant Professor Shorya Awtar was recently selected by the U-M Technology Transfer Office as one of the the six most promising invention disclosures - out of more than 350 - filed with the TTO in year 2008. FlexDex™ was showcased at its annual Celebrate Invention event held in the Michigan League Ballroom on October 13, 2009.

FlexDex™ is a Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) technology platform that aims to provide enhanced dexterity, intuitive control, greater precision and natural force feedback via a low-cost laparoscopic tool. MIS, which is performed through a few small incisions in the patient's body, leads to a marked decrease in trauma, blood-loss, scarring, post-operative pain and complications, along with lower healthcare costs and faster recovery. Despite these market drivers, there remain several practical limitations in the existing technological solutions. Traditional hand-held tools either lack the necessary dexterity for these complex procedures, or are unintuitive to operate, resulting in limited functionality, longer operations and significant surgeon training times. On the other hand, robotic tools generally provide exceptional dexterity and control, but are bulky, lack force feedback, and are exorbitantly expensive, adding to the already high costs of healthcare.

In a significant departure from these existing technologies, FlexDex™ employs a novel VirtualCenter™ concept to provide a highly intuitive one-to-one mapping of the surgeon's input motions to the tool output motions inside the patient's body, all in a low-cost, compact package. These attributes are expected to result in a much wider adoption of MIS procedures in fundoplication, colectomy, hysterectomy, prostatectomy, and bariatric surgery, to name a few.

Awtar and his collaborator, Associate Professor James Geiger of the Medical School, led a team of graduate and undergraduate ME students – Tristan Trutna, Jens Neilsen, Rosa Abani, and Andrew Mansfield – on this project. This effort has been funded in part by the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

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