Although already present for many years, the concept of digital twins still holds a lot of potential for new applications. “Digital twins have been successfully used in industries like aerospace and automotive manufacturing for several decades,” says MDsim CEO Roger Assaker. “When designing airplanes or cars, engineers run simulations to test crash scenarios or evaluate performance, avoiding real-world experimentation.” MDsim is harnessing the same principle to improve the medical field by creating accurate digital twins of patient-specific spine.
This breakthrough solution allows surgeons to simulate and refine surgical procedures on a computer before stepping into the operating room, ensuring that every detail is meticulously planned and minimising the risk of complications and future surgical revisions.
MDSIM relies on various forms of data.
The CEO, formerly the co-founder and CEO of e-Xstream and then CEO of MSC Software, one of the pioneers in creating a digital twin of the Apollo rocket for NASA’s moon mission, found inspiration for applying industrial principles to healthcare through a conversation with his brother, a neurosurgery professor and spine surgeon. Recognising the potential crossover, he suggested, “why not employ the same predictive technology we use for aerospace and automotive industries on the human body?” This sparked the inception of the idea.
The other very important specificity of health technology is the quality and regulation, the speciality of the third Assaker brother! The three brothers came together to co-found MDsim.
Data to build digital twins
MDSIM relies on various forms of data, such as CT scans, MRIs, and other medical images, to create accurate digital representations of patients. This data is crucial in training the AI models to automatically identify the geometry of the spine, the attached anatomical bodies and the biomechanical properties, a part of the body it currently specialises in.
This breakthrough solution allows surgeons to simulate and refine surgical procedures on a computer before stepping into the operating room.
“Data is also essential for the model’s resolution and validation. Given the sensitive nature of healthtech, it is imperative that the patient data used is anonymised to prevent loss or compromise,” he points out.
Luxembourg: fertile ground for innovation and partnerships
MDSIM was one of the successful graduates of the recently concluded edition of the Fit 4 Start, Luxembourg’s leading startup accelerator programme, which helped the company define a roadmap and KPIs. As a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Mr Assaker is well acquainted with Luxembourg’s close-knit community, and highlights its ability to facilitate quicker data acquisition and agreements, a stark contrast to larger healthcare ecosystems.
Luxembourg is a small community, making it easier to set up these agreements much faster.
“We are currently developing agreements with different data sources. We just signed an agreement with the Hôpitaux Robert Schuman hospital in Luxembourg. And we are in the process of signing a data agreement with a hospital in Lille in France to get access to data. All this is treated very seriously with respect to GDPR, the EU’s regulation for data protection, and cybersecurity. Luxembourg is a small community, making it easier to set up these agreements much faster.”
In addition, the CEO highlights several partnerships and support the company has received from other ecosystem players like the national innovation agency Luxinnovation, the University of Luxembourg, LuxProvide, the organisation in charge of the national supercomputer MeluXina, and the Luxembourg Institute of Health.
The advantage of Luxembourg is that it is accessible. You can identify very fast who can help you and there’s a lot of them.
“The data we collect needs to be segmented and treated and we need computational power for this. So we have interactions with LuxProvide to get access to the high performance computing and cloud infrastructure to do this analysis. We are also being supported by Luxinnovation to set up a big R&D project that is in the process of being accepted,” he mentions.
The company’s Scientific Advisory Board includes a University of Luxembourg professor with expertise in AI and computer modelling and simulation, while its collaboration with the LIH focuses on the clinical validation phase of the solution. “The advantage of Luxembourg is that it is accessible. You can identify very fast who can help you and there’s a lot of them.”
Photo credit: Luxinnovation/ Sophie Margue