Shorya Awtar, M.S. ’00, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Precision Systems Design Lab (PSDL) at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, is the inventor of a new minimally invasive surgery technology called FlexDex. The startup he co-founded with James Geiger and Greg Bowles, FlexDex Surgical, is based on research and innovations in parallel kinematics, virtual center, and flexure mechanisms at the PSDL.
FlexDex Surgical’s laparoscopic instruments precisely translate the surgeon’s hand and wrist motions to an articulating end-effector inside the patient’s body via a simple, elegant, and purely mechanical design, providing intuitive control that is similar to expensive robotic surgery systems, yet is priced with existing affordable laparoscopic instruments.
“The widespread adoption of laparoscopic surgery has been limited by the functionality or affordability of the existing technology solutions,” says Awtar. “Our goal is to democratize advanced laparoscopy around the world.”
FlexDex Surgical is launching its first product, an articulating Needle Driver for suturing and knot-tying, at select U.S. sites this fall. In the long term, the company plans to apply its technology platform across all laparoscopic and endoscopic instruments.
Awtar earned his B.S. at IIT Kanpur, M.S. at Rensselaer, and D.Sc. at MIT. He has three dozen inventions that are patented or patent-pending and has received numerous awards, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Leonardo daVinci Award for the invention of FlexDex, and multiple R&D100 Awards.
“I was an M.S. student in mechanical engineering at RPI from 1998 to 2000, and that experience had a transformative impact on me,” says Awtar. “It helped set the course of my subsequent professional trajectory.”