A weekly conversation with the innovators who will change how health care is delivered.
Episode 164: Kurt Azarbarzin, Revolutionizing Surgery
Kurt Azarbarzin grew up valuing discipline, hard work and a can-do attitude, and he credits much of his success to continuing to work and live by those principles. Having moved to the United States from Tehran, Iran in late 1970's as a senior in High School, Kurt was fortunate to live with an American family who knew his own family well. He enjoyed math and science, so he studied manufacturing engineering in college and had his first exposure to the medical device industry from a professor who was then consulting at U.S. Surgical. This professor helped Kurt obtain a part-time job there, and although he was not initially interested in medtech, Kurt quickly became fascinated with surgery as he worked with surgeons in the OR. He learned that if he truly aimed to help the surgeons achieve better outcomes, and not just pitch them products, then a mutually beneficial partnership could develop. After 21 years at U.S. Surgical, the company was acquired by Tyco, and Kurt decided to continue his passion for innovation by first becoming a consultant and then an entrepreneur. In this interview with host Geoff Pardo, Kurt shares how his family values and early learnings at U.S. Surgical helped shape his success as a founder and leader, including starting and exiting SurgiQuest, leading Verb Surgical, and now overseeing ColubrisMX Robotics. Tune in to hear these stories and insights, plus the three most pressing questions you need to be able to answer if you’re considering surgical robotics.
Kurt Azarbarzin is a 39-year medtech industry veteran, having led the development of over 90 new products representing over $910 million of annual sales at companies including U.S. Surgical, Tyco Healthcare (now Medtronic), Spine Wave, Respimetrix, SurgiQuest, Verb Surgical, and J&J. He has experience in surgical, robotic, cardiovascular, interventional, orthopedic and urological markets. Kurt founded SurgiQuest in 2005 and sold it to Conmed, and the company’s lead technology AirSeal became the standard of care for advanced Lap and Robotic Surgery. He then became CEO of Verb Surgical, a Joint Venture between Google and J&J consisting of over 550 employees, that was acquired by J&J in January 2020. After that, Kurt became and is currently the CEO of ColubrisMX Robotics, which is developing the first endoluminal robotic platform in the world, thus truly enabling scarless surgery through existing lumens. Kurt currently lives in Greenwich, CT and is a funding member of the MIS Revolution.
Episode 163: Venture Investing in a Post-COVID World
The pandemic has certainly affected many aspects of life, but what about the medtech industry? Specifically for this audience, did COVID impact medtech investment strategy? As part of the recent Medtech MVP conference, host Geoff Pardo moderated a panel interview with four medtech investors to tackle that question and many more: Carter McNabb, Managing Director, River Cities Capital Funds; Darshana Zaveri, Managing Partner, Catalyst Health Ventures; Justin Klein, MD, JD, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Vensana Capital; and Tara Butler, MD, Managing Director, Ascension Ventures. The panel also discussed aspects of the virtual world that are likely to remain in the entrepreneur/VC ecosystem, the latest drama around coverage and MCIT, the rise of consumerism and patient payment, the funding gap for early-stage companies, and the investment appetite for AI/data-driven diagnostics and devices. Listen now to catch these valuable insights!
Carter McNabb, Managing Director, River Cities Capital Funds
Darshana Zaveri, Managing Partner, Catalyst Health Ventures
Justin Klein, MD, JD, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Vensana Capital
Tara Butler, MD, Managing Director, Ascension Ventures
Episode 162: Bernie Haffey on Cutting Through to High Performance
Bernie Haffey started his career as a high school physics teacher, then decided to go to business school. He remained interested in science and technology though, so he started working in the medtech industry at Hewlett-Packard’s Medical Products Group before transferring to Mentor Corp. After rising in the ranks at Mentor, Bernie then joined Summit Technology, where he was first exposed to the concept of high-performance management systems. He learned about the importance of a clear vision (and vision statement), the value of a mission statement and how it differs from a vision, and the benefit of narrowing a multitude of initiatives down to the vital few that focus on true breakthrough opportunities. After over two decades of experience as a senior leader at Summit, Intralase, NDO Surgical, and Nexis Vision, Bernie decided to return to his roots, found a consulting firm focused on high-performance management systems, and start teaching management science. In this interview with host Geoff Pardo, Bernie shares many of the critical aspects, decision points, and challenges of high-performance management systems, including how to balance voices of the customer, shareholder, and employee; the importance of a strong operational team who can carry out a new vision; the need for effective systems in addition to brilliant staff; and many of the watchouts when leading change in an organization.
Episode 161: Amar Sawhney on Finding the Right Chemistry for Entrepreneurial Success
Now a seasoned medtech entrepreneur and leader, Amar Sawhney first became interested in the industry starting in graduate school. He was studying chemical engineering and developing biodegradable polymers for adhesion prevention and hydrogels for light-activated polymerization within the body. He and his advisor were then approached by Mayfield Fund to spin out the technology into the startup Focal. Amar was fortunate to learn a lot from then CEO Mark Levin, including some hard lessons that drove him and Fred Khosravi to found Incept, an IP holding company for creating operating companies based on field of use. As CEO/Founder of Confluent Surgical, AccessClosure, Augmenix, Ocular Therapeutix, and now Instylla, Amar learned how to transition from scientist to executive and is truly a medtech influencer. In this interview with host Geoff Pardo, Amar shares many of the valuable lessons he’s learned founding and managing various startups, including how to find the right application for a technology, when a platform solution really makes sense, how to effectively lead and build successful teams, the value of a diverse workforce, and tips for overcoming the funding gap for early-stage companies, plus his candid thoughts on the differences in funding/entrepreneurship between the East and West coasts.
Amarpreet (Amar) Sawhney, Ph.D., is the Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Instylla. He is also the CEO of Pramand LLC, and Rejoni, Inc. Prior to this Dr. Sawhney served as CEO and Chairman of Augmenix (acquired by Boston Scientific) and Ocular Therapeutix (NASDAQ: OCUL). In addition, he is a general partner of Incept, LLC, an intellectual property holding company. Previously, Dr. Sawhney founded Confluent Surgical and served as its President and CEO prior to its acquisition by Covidien plc. He also was a technology founder of Focal, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company acquired by Genzyme Corporation, and a founder of AccessClosure, Inc., acquired by Cardinal Health. Dr. Sawhney’s innovations are the subject of over 120 issued and pending patents. He holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as a B.Tech. in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi India.
Episode 160: Securing Coverage and Payment for Your Innovative Medical Device: Advice from the Experts
Navigating the ever-changing sea of medtech reimbursement is never easy, particularly with the recent swings in policies pertaining to breakthrough devices. As part of the continued Medtech Talk Digital Discussion Series, host Geoff Pardo moderates a panel interview with three medtech reimbursement experts to look at strategies for obtaining reimbursement coding, coverage, and payment: Mary Hailey, CCM, CDMS, Vice President Health Economics and Reimbursement, Relievant Medsystems, Inc.; DeChane Dorsey, JD, Executive Director of AdvaMed Accel, AdvaMed; and David Gregory, Principal, Healthcare & Life Sciences Consulting Leader, Baker Tilly. The panel discusses coding and payment issues that are particularly pertinent to small/mid-sized companies; the impact of recent changes to accommodate breakthrough devices, including MCIT, Add-On payment, NTAP, and TPT; CMS’s approach to handling issues/questions and how to best work with the agency; thinking wholistically about bringing your product to market (more than just FDA approval); and the influence of advocacy efforts by physician specialty societies on coding and payments. Listen now to catch these valuable insights!
Mary Hailey, CCM, CDMS, Vice President Health Economics and Reimbursement, Relievant Medsystems, Inc. DeChane Dorsey, JD, Executive Director of AdvaMed Accel, AdvaMed David Gregory, Principal, Healthcare & Life Sciences Consulting Leader, Baker Tilly
Episode 159: Lessons from Medtech Leader and Mentor Joe Mandato
There’s nothing like those pivotal moments of a startup that lead to it becoming wildly successful. The excitement as the company’s first product begins to earn market share and attention from additional investors or acquirers. This month’s podcast guest Joe Mandato has been in that situation with several successful startups turned corporations, including Guidant Corporation, Origin Medical Systems (predecessor of Intuitive Surgical), and Align Technology (maker of InvisAlign), as well as leading Tear Science and iOptics Research. Joe has learned a lot about leadership throughout these endeavors and his doctoral research on the effectiveness of corporate governance. He’s seen firsthand the importance of understanding where leaders can contribute and where they need help; switching from the “wrong” application to the “right” one; having technological innovation at root, but the right business model innovation and culture to achieve to success; and maximizing boards of directors. After many decades in the industry, Joe is truly a medtech mentor. In this interview with host Geoff Pardo, Joe shares many of the valuable lessons he’s learned working with various startups, how to shift from being an operator to an investor, how to best leverage boards and board meetings, and his suggestions for changes in the healthcare system and opportunities coming out of COVID.
Joe Mandato holds a Doctor of Business Administration degree from Case Western Reserve University, where his research focused on the evolving role of boards in ensuring effective corporate governance. He was a 2011-2012 Fellow of Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative and served as Co-Chair of Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Coalition. He is a Managing Director at DeNovo Ventures, Senior Advisor at Apercen Partners and Sonder Capital and Lecturer at Stanford University. He has served on more than 20 public and private boards of directors focused on technology and the life sciences. He also serves on the boards of Case Western Reserve University, Headstart and Save the Children. He was an investor, board member and advisor to the founders of Align Technologies (Invisalign) and has served as CEO of five life sciences companies, which created significant shareholder value. He was a member of the founding management committee of Guidant Corporation (NYSE) and was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Mayfield Fund, a Silicon Valley venture fund. He has authored or co-authored numerous articles on healthcare and governance and the book The Entrepreneur’s Journey.
Geoff, host of the Medtech Talk podcast, highlights all aspects of med tech and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!
Entertaining, insightful and actionable! 🙌
Whether you’re well established as someone innovating in the world of healthcare, or just getting started as a catalyst for reimagining the future - this is a must-listen podcast for you! Geoff does an incredible job leading conversations that cover a huge breadth of topics related to the ins and outs of navigating an ever changing healthcare ecosystem - from leaders who’ve actually walked the path. Highly recommend listening and subscribing!
Great for anyone looking to learn more about medical technologies/ current Med tech news