July 27, 2000

Contact:
Mike Sauer
Communications Coordinator, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 74773

London Researchers awarded $3.19 million to set up National Centre for Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery

(LONDON, Ontario) - A team of London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) researchers and physicians, in affiliation with the University of Western Ontario (UWO), has successfully obtained a Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) grant worth $3.19 million to create a national centre for the study of robotics and its application in minimally invasive surgery (MIS).

Dr. Douglas Boyd, a world leader in minimally invasive robotic heart surgery, will be lead clinician/scientist for the new National Centre for Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery, which will be housed at the University Campus of London Health Sciences Centre.

Dr. Boyd is renowned for performing the world's first closed-chest, robotic-assisted beating heart coronary artery bypass graft in September 1999 at the London Health Sciences Centre. The groundbreaking achievements of Dr. Boyd, Dr. Reiza Rayman and the team of researchers, clinicians and surgeons at LHSC paved the way for a successful submission to the CFI.

"Robotics and its application to minimally invasive surgery will revolutionize the way health care is delivered within five years," says Dr. Boyd. "MIS allows quicker recovery with substantially less pain and shorter hospital stays. The application of robotics to new areas of MIS surgery will ultimately let us help our patients in ways we have just begun to dream of."

The new national centre will focus on improving robotic technology, applying robotics research to treat disease in new ways and teaching the application of robotics in minimally invasive surgery.

Dr. Joseph Gilbert, Chief Administrative Officer of the Lawson Health Research Institute, which was recently formed to merge London's hospital-based research institutes, points to the broad research and education benefits the new centre will bring: "The National Centre for Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery will combine the skills of our team with an appropriate infrastructure to create a national and global research capacity which currently does not exist."

Major research projects planned for the new national centre include:

 

  • a study to further improve the dexterity and flexibility of the robotic system
  • research in the use of MIS and robotics for surgical treatment of lung cancer (brachytherapy)
  • a study of the potential of applying robotics in heart surgery for children
  • research in the use of MIS and robotics in the surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation (uncoordinated contractions of the heart)
  • research into "hybrid procedures" combining robotics with existing MIS techniques for cardiac surgery and cardiology
  • a study into the feasibility of telesurgery (surgery at a distance from the patient)

"The centre will attract top minds in the field and play a lead role in training a new generation of researchers and physicians," says Dr. Michael Mack, a Dallas, Texas cardiovascular surgeon and President of the International Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery. Dr. Mack, who is visiting LHSC to participate in a robotic surgery case, adds, "I'm here today because of the cutting edge work this team has done. The CFI grant will greatly promote and advance the innovation and excellence already so evident here in London."

Tony Dagnone, President and CEO of London Health Sciences Centre emphasizes the importance of philanthropy in LHSC's research and treatment endeavours. "We owe a huge debt of thanks to Richard and Beryl Ivey and the Richard Ivey Foundation, who have led the way by spearheading support of minimally invasive robotic cardiac surgery at LHSC."

"Private sector partners are major contributors to the new centre," Dagnone notes. "Computer Motion (developer of the Zeus robotic arm system) is providing $1.5 million in equipment and technical assistance, including a Zeus system to support our research and education efforts. I am extremely pleased at the high level of commitment all our private sector partners have made to the new centre." Other private sector partners include Siemens Medical, Metronics Canada, Biosense Webster, Ethicon Endosurgery and Karl Storz Endoscopy.

Dagnone concludes, "LHSC is at the forefront of discovery in minimally invasive robotic surgery now. The creation of this new, national centre will help us continue our leadership in the field and bring the benefits to not only our own patients, but through our education and training mandate, to patients across Canada and beyond."

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