A couple of years ago, after a difficult case, surgeon Paula Doyle left the operating room frustrated. If only she’d had a way to transilluminate, or shine a light through body tissue. Out of that frustration grew EndoGlow, a University Rochester spinoff and Luminate hopeful.
“I left the case kind of late because it took me a while to get through it, so I showed up at a research meeting and told them about this stuck bladder, this difficult case, and how I wished I’d had a flashlight or something that I could have used to transilluminate the tissues,” Doyle recalls. “As I’m venting to these really smart people, they say, ‘We can do that. We can build something like that.’”
Doyle knew what she wanted: A tool that didn’t rely on the visible light spectrum, or the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. It had to be easy to use and not crowd the surgical space, which generally tends to be tight.
“I wanted to make surgery easier and life more simple,” Doyle says.
EndoGlow’s first product, the GreenEgg, when used with robotic and laparoscopic systems that include near infrared imaging, fluoresces, allowing surgeons to see through blood and tissue, up to about a centimeter. The device uses a polymer that fluoresces, eliminating the need for external power or batteries. A pilot study at the university revealed more than was expected.
“We could see relative tissue depth, so based on how much tissue you could see you could tell if the tissue you’re operating on was thin or thick or something like that and that was unexpected,” says Doyle, EndoGlow’s chief medical officer. “The other thing that was unexpected was that you could see tissue quality. So, if there was a scar, for example, on the bladder you could see if it was just a superficial scar or if the scar went all the way down.”
It also showed pathology under the skin. For instance, Doyle says, the tool allows doctors to view a condition like endometriosis, when tissue that lines the uterus grows outside it.
“If you just had the visible light spectrum, you wouldn’t be able to see it because you only see through to the surface of the skin; you can’t see through it,” Doyle says.
She and her colleague Jay Reeder, a research professor in obstetrics and gynecology, co-founded EndoGlow in 2017, with help from UR Ventures, the university’s technology transfer unit. The GreenEgg is now a patent pending Class 1 disposable medical device for manipulation and visualization in urologic, gynecologic and colorectal surgeries.
Since its launch, EndoGlow has grown to five people, attracting three successful Syracuse entrepreneurs who co-founded, grew and sold Jadak Technologies in Cicero to GSI Group, bringing in business expertise. The company has space at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Venture Creations incubator in Henrietta, and is part of the Central New York Biotech Accelerator at Upstate in Syracuse.
Now, EndoGlow is waiting to hear if it will be a semifinalist for NextCorp’s accelerator program Luminate’s next class. The announcement is expected this week. Getting into the program, Doyle says, will help take the business to the next level as it prepares for a production run of 1,100 units and scale for growth. EndoGlow is working with Röchling Advent Tool & Mold, a fabrication company in Rochester.
“The next step is really pushing the commercialization and making it happen faster. … With additional funding we could go ahead and produce product 2 and product 3; we wouldn’t wait as long to get them out,” Doyle says.
The GreenEgg currently faces no competition, she says, but that is likely to change. Surgeons typically use a stainless-steel tool, called a Bougie, to manipulate organs during surgery.
EndoGlow believes the target addressable market for its first product is $400 million. The company, which hopes to hit $24 million in revenue in five years, operates in the minimally invasive and surgical robotic markets. The surgical robotic market alone is expected to surpass $24 billion by 2025, a recent Global Market Insights report shows. EndoGlow’s end user is a surgeon, while its ideal customer is a hospital.
While Doyle knows she has a lot to learn and wants to keep learning, she expresses confidence in her team and doesn’t lack ambition when it comes to goals. She would like to see EndoGlow in 50 hospitals a year from now, with the company working on its fourth product. All products in development at EndoGlow target the same markets as the GreenEgg.
“The goal is always to help patients, not just my patients, but all patients,” Doyle says.
An assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UR, Doyle came to medicine after working in the fashion industry and serving in the Peace Corps. She moved to Rochester from Texas in 2014 for a fellowship at UR.
Today, Doyle splits her time between EndoGlow and the university. She appreciates Rochester’s strengths, noting EndoGlow wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for UR’s support.
“None of this could have happened without the university, quite honestly,” she says.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.