Texas Tech University

Surgic’s Anatomy: The Next Big Innovation in Surgical Training Tools

Kathryn Dankesreiter, TTU Innovation Hub Team

June 7, 2021

Hybrid team of mechanical engineers, businessmen, and doctors launch a surgical training device that will revolutionize the industry!

Surgeons. When you are on the table, they are the doctors who hold your life in their hands. Understandably, you want them to have the best education possible.

Surgic's surgical training device is the next big innovation in medical education. Travis Reiss, co-founder and CEO of Surgic, explains that “Surgic aims to substantially improve the educational toolkit available to medical residents”. The product “integrates novel engineering designs developed by our team,” which consists of three mechanical engineers, two doctors, and two business professionals. 

Two founders, including Travis Reiss, formed their initial team in Dr. Paul Egan's Mechanical Engineering Capstone. Dr. Egan is one of the Innovation Hub's esteemed 2020-2021 Faculty Ambassadors. 

Igniting the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Prior to enrolling at Texas Tech, Reiss knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. “I have always felt an innate entrepreneurial drive that I knew would one day manifest into a startup, irrespective of when or where.” Prior to pursuing his dream, Reiss began his college career at the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering.

Throughout his college education his entrepreneurial spark was repressed. “I often felt that I was right where I was meant to be, amongst my engineering student peers, as we worked to solve problems together, step-by-step and with precision, with all necessary information clearly described. The way of the engineer.”

It wasn't until Dr. Egan's class that Reiss's entrepreneurial spirit was ignited. The capstone course integrated entrepreneurship and engineering design. “It really motivated me early on and helped me recognize that I could pursue entrepreneurial endeavors as an engineer… through programs at the Innovation Hub.” The project Reiss started in class with co-founder Kyle Fenn. Dr. Egan's background in healthcare, led the two mechanical engineers to Dr. Catherine Ronaghan, a surgeon and professor at the TTUHSC. 

Finding the Right People

After several meetings with Dr. Ronaghan to discuss the limitations of current surgical training devices, Reiss and Fenn launched the project. Outside of the classroom, Surgic entered NSF I-Corps in fall 2020. “NSF I-Corps was hugely instrumental in pushing my group's capstone project from the classroom and into prospective startup landscape. Following huge validation and encouragement during customer discovery, Kyle and I were brimming with excitement and ready to take this to the next level.” Surgic was formed on February 2nd, 2021.

Travis Reiss, Dr. Paul Egan, and Kyle Fenn, with the guidance of Dr. Catherine Ronaghan, set their sights on Innovation Hub programs including the Presidents' Innovation Award and TTU Accelerator.

As Surgic began to grow through the team's involvement in Innovation Hub programs, the team recognized they were missing a few key players. “Simply put, we needed to organize a collection of human capital to improve this technology.” The mechanical engineers met Arham Siddiqui, a medical student and MBA, and onboarded him as Surgic's CFO. Shortly after that, the team connected with Chris Ackerman, an engineering consultant and TTU alumni. Surgic welcomed Ackerman as their CMO.

In fall 2020, Surgic won the TTUHSC's President's $25,000 award. Spurred by the momentum of the win, the team competed in the 2021 Discoveries to Impact TTU Accelerator program. Surgic was accepted into the one-year program.

When prompted what he was most excited about for the TTU Accelerator program, Reiss said, “It is tough to pick one thing, honestly. But I would say the human capital in the form of the Accelerator mentors… Mentors such as Michael Ryan and Phil Sizer have been a truly great help for our team.”

Equipped with a diverse team of mechanical engineers, business experts, and medical professionals, Surgic aims to launch their minimum viable product (MVP) by next year. 

Where Surgic Goes from Here

Surgic provides hospitals and surgeons the opportunity to practice procedures without the high cost of traditional cadavers. The company's first product, which they aim to release in summer 2022, “will simulate and provide a training platform for midline laparotomies exclusively, with more products focused on other critical surgical procedures to come.”

In addition to launching Surgic's MVP, Reiss has other goals, including competing at NSF National I-Corps, in mind. “Additionally, we can hopefully secure an NSF Phase 2 SBIR/STTR grant following the program to help further accelerate Surgic.”

“We see potential to become a major player as a medical technology company, capturing a sizeable portion of the surgical simulation and training market and delivering technological and educational value to our healthcare customers.”

Passion Pushes Through

Reiss acknowledged the struggles and risks of being an entrepreneur but pushes past them with his passion and his team's drive.

“Unquestionably, I have had to make sacrifices to dedicate substantial time and effort co-creating this company, but it is all in the pursuit of an important problem that I am passionate about, and a solution our company can deliver that will hopefully improve healthcare globally, one step at a time.”