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Bright idea: Technology developed at University of Utah could modernize laparoscopy

Bright idea: Technology developed at University of Utah could modernize laparoscopy

(Courtesy of Xenocor)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Dr. John Langell’s phone was pointed the wrong way. That simple accident may just change the world of laparoscopic surgery.

Late one night, Langell was getting out of bed to answer as the on-call doctor. Not wanting to wake his wife, he turned on his cell phone light in order to find his shoes. The light, however, was pointed right at him.

That bright light almost served as a metaphorical light bulb because as his face lit up, he had a thought: That beam looked awfully like a laparoscope — and it seemed just as bright. Next, he considered the phone's HD camera capabilities and he began to wonder if that technology could be used for laparoscopic surgeries.

Turns out the answer was yes.

It’s been a big week for Xenocor, the Salt Lake City-based company that was born from Langell’s late-night realization, and its patented product, the Xenoscope, a first-of-its-kind disposable laparoscope.

On Monday, the company announced a group purchasing agreement with Premier Inc. (which is connected to around 41,000 U.S. hospitals) for the Xenoscope — and got an investment from the Mountain Pacific Venture Fund.

“Premier offers Breakthrough Technology designations to innovations that significantly improve patient safety, clinical outcomes and operational efficiencies,” said Evan Kelso, CEO of Xenocor. “It hasn’t really been possible until recently to make these kinds of sophisticated devices in a single-use platform, so we feel it is indeed a breakthrough for the industry to make these technical advances readily available to serve patients, facilities and providers.”


So how is the Xenoscope different from what is out there now?

Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure where an instrument is inserted into the abdomen in order to view the organs. Today, those instruments are used, then cleaned, then used again. And they are part of a much more elaborate setup.

The Xenoscope is the only disposable laparoscope in the market, according to Xenocor, and its portability (the light source and camera are built right into the instrument) allows for it to be attached to any monitor and be ready to use. That could give hospitals more operating rooms without the actual cost of making one.

“All you need is a monitor, which every room has these days, so you just plug it into an HD monitor,” said Tony Watson, vice president of Sales and Marketing. “These big towers that we're kind of replacing are not as portable. And so then you can just make another room a laparoscopic procedure room.”

Xenocor claims more surgeries could be done with the Xenoscope which would lead to less waiting time for patients. And with it being a single-use device, it’ll also help prevent cross-contamination.

“We're taking some of those things away that have been issues in the past,” Watson said.

Xenocor began as a student project at the Center for Medical Innovation at the University of Utah. Langell worked with his students at the U. to develop what would become the Xenoscope and that has spun forward into the company that now has some big ambitions.

Worldwide potential

Yes, Xenocor does feel the Xenoscope is a better version of what is being commonly used for laparoscopy today throughout the United States. But the fact is, in America, laparoscopic procedures are more or less a decent experience for patients (or at least as fine as surgery can be). The incisions are small, so too are the scars, and the pain isn’t too great.

But that isn't the case in about 80% of the world.

“They still have a big incision and high risk associated with their procedure," Watson said of many international hospitals.

That’s mainly due to not having the newest equipment or the maintenance resources required for it. That’s something the Xenoscope could help change. Less upfront cost, no big tower needed, no cleaning in between — and that is why the company, which began in 2016, thinks it has a lot of potential customers.

“Our vision is to make minimally invasive approaches more accessible and affordable to hospitals and patients around the world,” said Evan Kelso, CEO of Xenocor.

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Ryan Miller has covered the Utah Jazz for since 2018.


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