Synthetically yours

Expanding their range of surgical training applications, LifeLike BioTissue works toward spin-out status

THEY SAY A STITCH IN TIME saves nine, and that is certainly true for doctors and their patients. LifeLike BioTissue Inc. markets a range of life-like hydrogel polymer products including skin, veins, aortas and micro-vessels that imitate real tissue. Th ese products, which feel and behave like the real thing, are used to enhance medical skills training, helping medical students and health professionals acquire and perfect surgical skills. Th e company was launched by Dr. Leonardo Millon, with multiple degrees from the University of Western Ontario, including a PhD in biomedical engineering. His sister Karen, an entrepreneur, strategic planner and Ivey graduate, partnered up to commercialize and market the products. Th e Millon's, whose family came to Canada from Colombia in 1991, have built an impressive network of support. "We kick ourselves every day about how the London business community wants us to succeed," says Karen Millon. LifeLike BioTissue products have been licensed through WORLDiscoveries, the business development arm of London's research institutes. Early results have been favourable. "We have 11 orders and three of them are repeat orders," says Millon. One prominent local champion is Dr. John Denstedt, professor of Urology and chairman of the Department of Surgery at UWO. "We have developed a great relationship with LifeLike BioTissue, and they are an example of how surgeons can 8 | businesslondon.ca | NOVEMBER 2010 support a start-up," says Denstedt. "We bring them into the operating room to see what we are doing." Leo Millon agrees that product development has been greatly enhanced by his access to end-users. "I work closely with diff erent surgeons," he says. "We get lots of feedback and decide which ones have a market." Th e real limitation is that training happens in some specialties only once per year. "We need to develop as many products in as many diff erent specialties as possible to grow," says Karen Millon. "We are gaining ground on vascular-teaching students to do a bypass. But there are only one to two lessons per year on that. So we are moving into mitral valves and aortic valves, urology, plastics, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology to increase the market." A LifeLike saphenous vein (a leg vein oft en used to perform arterial bypass graft s and cardiac procedures) costs $32 and the product is non-toxic, superior to silicone and much cheaper and easier to acquire than from a human cadaver or a live pig lab. Another important relationship for LifeLike BioTissue is with the Canadian Surgical Technologies and Advanced Robotics (CSTAR), a medical device research, validation and training facility for minimally invasive surgery at the London Health Sciences Centre. Denstedt also chairs CSTAR's industry roundtable. "We can help them network with the large companies in medical devices like Medtronics, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson," says Denstedt. CSTAR surgeons have helped LifeLike BioTissue with a validation study of their products. "Independent validation is so important," says Karen Millon. "Every time someone buys our product they fi ll out a survey. So far they have been very positive and there is no bias." Leo Millon's research earned him the prestigious Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Martin Walmsley Fellowship for Technical Entrepreneurship. LifeLike BioTissue is in the second year of this $100,000 award to help develop market readiness and prototype development. Western's Department of Engineering has provided lab and offi ce space, though Millon is an independent researcher. "We have two university faculties working with us as the industry partner, and I am working with Dean Hrymak on another grant," says Leo Millon. Th e next step for the young company, he says, is to sew up some new capital and move to an off -campus facility in the city. ? MARY ANN COLIHAN Karen Millon and her brother, Dr. Leonardo Millon LIFELIKE BIOTISSUE INC. Established 2009 3 employees International markets www.lifelikebiotissue.com

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