One CEO On Commercializing Healthcare’s Next Big Thing

Mark Toland, CEO of Corindus Vascular Robotics
Mark Toland, CEO of Corindus Vascular Robotics © Bryce Vickmark. 

When Mark Toland joined Corindus Vascular Robotics from a high-level position at the multinational company Boston Scientific, he wasn’t thinking about the present but the future.

“It was an interesting time in the healthcare space, there were only two successful robotics companies….I joined [Corindus] because I knew the cardiovascular space. But I also I felt the world of healthcare robotics was going to evolve if done right. So I jumped in.”

Given that Toland only joined the company three years ago, it’s safe to say surgical robotics is still in its early stage of developments. But the promise is there—the industry is expected to reach $16 billion in market value by 2023. The Waltham, Massachusetts-based company’s revenue is growing, but more importantly, the demand in its product and its purchase orders are increasing as the technology continues to get refined.

Toland spoke to Chief Executive about innovation in healthcare, dealing with a highly regulated space and more. Below are excerpts from this conversation.

How do you take an innovative product—like surgical robotics technology—and commercialize it and benefit from it?

In the past, a lot of the development dollars that were put into technology was around safety and speed. And now I think there’s a paradigm shift in how the procedures are done. How we think about integrating data in decision making. How we think about precision medicine at the micro millimeter level. How we think about potentially doing procedures from multiple miles away if the opportunity presents itself. How do we think about the world of automation. Those things I think represent a paradigm shift and examples of a paradigm shift of how we think about the procedure in a high-tech world of healthcare.

When we think about taking a disruptive technology in healthcare and commercializing it, we have the belief that you have to be able to do something that physician can’t do. We’ve invested a lot of development dollars in just that. When we think about scaling the business, we find the pioneering partners in the clinical community, but we really want to go test it and put a significant amount of research into it and literally a dramatic patient outcome benefit by using robotics in their practice.

We’ve done that. We’ve got around 50 hospitals around the world that I consider the pioneers of technology that are leading the charge and leading the way. So oftentimes when you’ve got technology like this, it’s not so much, hey, what did the physicians think? It’s more about what did they think when hear from their peers. And that has a profound impact on their psyche around new technology, on whether they think it’s just a trivial toy or they think it’s the future and they want to be involved in it.

How do you deal with the challenges of being a highly regulated space?

It’s funny when you talk about regulation and you’ve grown up in this space, I get numb to it. The regulations we live under, I believe they’re fairly easy to work with as long as you have a good relationship with regulatory bodies like the FDA, We’ve received a 10 approvals out of 10 submissions from the FDA and have a good track record. In addition, we’ve passed all of our FDA audits that have come through. We’ve done a similar approach in Japan with the regulatory body over there and developed a really good working relationship with them.

We put a significant emphasis on our patient safety with robotics and believe that’s the cornerstone to any regulatory body that would be scrutinizing robotics in healthcare. Is the robot safe or not? We’vee got a significant track record proving that over and over again with cases to support it in the clinical community. I think the regulations are appropriately put in place to ensure that other companies out there that don’t have the same priorities in mind don’t necessarily damage the perception of the space that I believe is so vital to the future of healthcare.

Boston is a competitive area from a talent standpoint. How do you stay on the leading edge of recruitment and get the brightest minds to work at Corindus?

You’re right. There’s a lot of opportunity here for smart engineers that want to go apply themselves to various different areas. I think there’s two elements to that. Number one is the robotics in general is really interesting to young talent. It appeals considerably to young minds out there that are looking to do something that is the wave of the future versus doing something that just kind of already been done and there’s a signature stamp already on it. I think that is an appealing element that has an attractive nature to it.

The second thing is we deploy a very robust co-op strategy with the local engineering firms and engineering schools here in the Boston area. In particular, Northeastern, we have a very good relationship where we will bring on a several co-ops or for a period of six months and they get a chance to work on design validation, design testing, tooling, prototype design. It probably gives them a little taste of what they’d be working on in their day-to-day routine. If that’s something that appeals to them and they feel like that’s an opportunity, we’ve actually hired several of them full time upon graduation and that’s been a very good strategy for us as we continue to look for young talent.