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MD - 7/03/2013

Inria announces the creation of InSimo, an innovative company in the field of medical simulation software

InSimo, a medical simulation software publisher, offers a software platform developed, among others, by Inria, which introduces a new generation of medical simulators to the market. These simulators are more accurate and take less time to develop. Furthermore, these simulators will help broaden the scope of application to meet new requirements in terms of assistance in planning and completing increasingly complex surgical operations.

Simulation, essential for the training of practitioners

Following the example of flight simulators in aviation or marine navigation simulators, health simulation consists of the "experimental reproduction of real conditions" to enable the risk-free training of health professionals. Training performed via simulation methods in the health sector is currently a widespread practice. This concerns both initial training and continuous professional development. The training is both cross-disciplinary and multi-profession.

A recent report by the French Health Authority favours the use of simulation. The following were recommended: the extensive use of simulation in training, and ultimately, the prohibition of performing surgery for the first time on a patient.

InSimo, a company at the service of surgeons

InSimo produces biomechanical modelling software able to reproduce, realistically and interactively, the behaviour of organs and surgical procedures. Simulators for surgical training are currently available, but their use remains fairly rare, due to the lack of realism. InSimo aims to increase this realism considerably, thus improving the usefulness of the simulators.

"More than 10 years ago, Inria included health as a strategic area of development in its research and innovation activities: I am thrilled at the idea that the creation of InSimo is the result of those choices! In partnership with advanced medical research, the digital sciences have paved the way to new medical practices and new surgical procedure learning methods ," says Inria Chairman and CEO Michel Cosnard .

A company with two locations

InSimo is the result of the work of the Shacra project team, a joint team involving Inria and Lille1 University.* The company was created in Strasbourg to form part of the dynamic of the University Hospital Institute (IHU) dedicated to minimally-invasive image-guided surgery. This location puts InSimo at the centre of a cluster of excellence, in close contact with surgeons in order to meet their requirements more accurately.
"The Strasbourg IHU has made medical simulation one of its main research activities. We work in close collaboration with Inria to develop a centre of excellence in the areas of simulation and augmented reality for surgery. It is no coincidence that InSimo is the leading start-up created within the IHU ," says Professor Jacques Marescaux , Managing Director of the Strasbourg IHU and Chairman of IRCAD.

The InSimo team, based in Strasbourg, is comprised of Pierre-Jean Bensoussan, Juan Pablo de la Plata Alcalde and Jérémie Allard, with the support of Stéphane Cotin and Christian Duriez (Inria Lille – Nord Europe Centre). The chair is held by Jérémie Allard . The company aims to double its workforce to 10 employees by the end of 2013. This extra personnel will focus on completing the first simulator projects and continuing the R&D work on the platform.

Sofa, central to the system

InSimo promotes new technologies, which are the result of 8 years of cross-disciplinary research within Inria focused on the Sofa simulation engine. Sofa is a research and development platform dedicated to interactive physical simulations, particularly medical simulations. Sofa, developed as free software, is currently used by other research teams within the Institute and by companies such as Siemens, Digital Trainers and Belcurves.

An ambitious first project for a simulator in ophthalmology

A prototype simulator aimed at teaching the cataract surgery procedure was developed by researchers from the Shacra team in Lille, in collaboration with doctors from the CHUs (teaching hospitals) of Lille and Strasbourg, and with the technical and financial support of HelpMeSee. This prototype is developed with a force feedback system which helps "feel" the tissue resistance during the surgery, and 3D rendering to improve the practitioner's immersion. Compared to existing simulators, its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is based on highly realistic biomechanical modelling of the eye, thanks to InSimo technologies.
HelpMeSee is spearheading a global campaign to restore sight to the millions of people who have become blind because of cataracts in developing countries. There is a quick and economical surgical method, called Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS). In order to cover the global demand, 30,000 surgeons need to be trained. HelpMeSee is developing a training course and a virtual-reality surgical simulator based on the flight simulator model. The founder of HelpMeSee, Al Ueltschi, was a safety pioneer in aviation and in the use of simulators in pilot training.
After a competitive process involving other solutions, HelpMeSee chose an international consortium including InSimo to develop and manufacture the full simulator, based on its technological quality and its team.

James Ueltschi , Chairman and co-founder of HelpMeSee, stated the following: "We proved through FlightSafety International that simulators can be used to train thousands of pilots every year. We strongly believe that this principle can apply to cataract surgeons as well. We are very confident we can solve this problem.  "
InSimo has joined forces with SenseGraphics, a Swedish company, to develop the simulation software. Tommy Forsell , CEO of SenseGraphics, said that "SenseGraphics welcomes the collaboration with InSimo. InSimo's expertise is invaluable to the project with HelpMeSee. This should be the first of many projects in a long-term collaboration between InSimo and SenseGraphics. "

A partnership-based strategy

InSimo has already demonstrated its positioning and technology through its success in the 2012 OSEO/MSER Emergence competition, where the project was one of the three national prize winners. The advantage of this partnership-based strategy has been confirmed since the first major contracts were won. Although the company is already well-developed in terms of certain practices, the aim is to be able to adapt to all types of operations.
"InSimo aspires to be a horizontal supplier. We do not work on a single simulator: we are able to meet the requirements of all practitioners. For example, we contribute to the development of simulators for laparoscopy and arthroscopy ," says Jérémie Allard, Chairman of InSimo.

* within Joint research unit 8022 (CNRS-Lille1-Lille3-Inria), LIFL

Keywords: Innovation HelpMeSee Health Start-up