This month’s Resident Spotlight is with Dr. Abhi Cherukupalli, a PGY-1 in Family Medicine. We chatted with Dr. Cherukupalli about his medical device company, his interests in medical technology and medical entrepreneurship, and plans for the future.
You recently started a medical device company called “Tractus Medical”. Can you please tell us what it is about?
Tractus Medical is a medical device company that aims to revolutionize the treatment of wrist fractures in the acute care setting. The current gold standard, manual traction, requires multiple healthcare providers to perform, is cumbersome and has a failure rate of up to 45%. These failed treatments then require surgical treatment which carries its own risks. Overall, these issues cost the North American Healthcare system over $14 billion, a sum that could largely be avoided given the appropriate purpose-built tool. Our device will assist Emergency Physicians and Orthopedic Surgeons to more accurately and efficiently realign a broken wrist in the ER, thereby improving ER flow and creating significant cost savings for the healthcare system.
Our device is able to achieve this by allowing a single physician to distract the broken bones, reset them to their proper alignment, check for confirmation using portable fluoroscopy (if available) and cast the patient while the patient remains fixed in the device. This method allows the patient to avoid surgery.
What are your goals for the company five years down the line? Ten years?
In the next five years we plan to apply and receive regulatory approval through Health Canada and the FDA, and complete a feasibility study locally in British Columbia. Our next milestone would be to begin small order sales of our device in British Columbia, with a several year roadmap for expansion across Canada and parts of the US. Throughout this process we will seek angel investment to subsidize and support our costs of manufacturing and distribution, as well as ongoing research and development.
In ten years we plan to expand our company further across Canada and into the UK, Australia and the USA with the support of Venture Capital Funding.
What inspired you to start Tractus Medical?
As a medical student on an orthopedic rotation I remember the pain and difficulty of managing multiple patients in the ER with wrist fractures. Being eager to help, I remember running around the ER getting IV poles, finger traps, saline bags and rope to create make-shift traction-countertraction devices to assist in the bone resetting process when we were understaffed. I remember thinking at that moment that there had to be a better way. With all the amazing medical innovations you see on a day to day basis, it blew my mind that the most cutting edge technology we had to fix wrist fractures, an extremely common injury, was a thrown together tool with equipment from a hospital closet. Using Hatching Health, a medical technology innovation competition, as a launching pad, my team and I created a conceptual model to address this problem and the rest is history!
Your interests lie in medical technology and medical entrepreneurship as a whole. What drives your interest in the two fields?
Growing up in a family of engineers, the talk at the dinner table was always about this new technology or that and how we can optimize what we are doing now. I guess this rubbed off on me because once I started medical school I was hyper aware of the use of technology to treat patients around me. I think there is a lot of talk about AI and machine learning in medicine right now, and as important and revolutionary as this is, it was a bit above my pay grade. So I began identifying small inefficiencies in clinical practice that grew into finding larger gaps in care. Chatting with my peers about these issues and bouncing ideas off each other on days off ending up growing into ideas such as
Medical entrepreneurship was never something I actively looked for or knew that I would enjoy so much. I think over the last few months I have really taken a dive into it and love it. It is so different from anything I have ever done before that going from being a “medical expert” to being completely out of my depth was exciting. It gave me an outlet to use the skills I gained in medical school and translate them into something tangible. Learning business and marketing strategies, foundations in the start-up field and even just the translation of medical jargon into terms more digestible by a larger audience was a lot of fun. Don’t get me wrong, it has been tough and mistakes have been made, but working with my team of engineers and industrial designers through this process has not only helped me appreciate the beauty of medicine but also how strongly we depend on interdisciplinary collaboration to improve patient care.
Are there any other projects or ideas you’re already thinking about, that you hope to bring to fruition in the future?
My mind is always racing when it comes to med tech ideas! Most recently, I have been thinking about a medical education matchmaking app that would help connect medical students and residents in various specialties as a means to assist medical students in choosing their career trajectory through frank discussions with their respective matched residents. However, Tractus Medical is taking up a lot of time right now and fortunately or unfortunately I will have to table these ideas until I can see this project to fruition.