Avi Aliman, Business Development Director and co-founder of Italian medical robotics company ValueBioTech
Avi Aliman is a great believer in doing meaningful work. It is what sustains him and motivates him throughout the long process of bringing a revolutionary surgical robot to the global market. “This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he explains. “Because what we are creating here at ValueBioTech is nothing short of game changing and life changing.”
He is talking about the M.I.L.A.N.O. surgical robot. The acronym stands for “minimally invasive light automatic natural orifice” robot and apart from describing perfectly what the device does, is highly appropriate, considering the company is based in Italy's business capital, Milan.
Robotic surgery is not a new field, in fact the first robot was used in 1985 for inserting a needle during a brain biopsy. Major advances since those days have led to the creation of world-famous technologies such as the Da Vinci Surgical System, which was developed by American company Intuitive Surgical. This system is most commonly used for hysterectomies and prostate removals.
The vision for ValueBioTech's M.I.L.A.N.O. is “to transform everyday surgery into a painless and scarless experience.” The unique micro robotic technology has been created by surgeon and ValueBioTech founder Antonello Forgione. “It is revolutionary on so many levels. It is only 30 millimetres in diameter. It uses only one entry point, through a single incision or natural orifice,” explains Aliman.
“It deconstructs the various tools needed for the surgical procedure then reassembles itself once it's inside the cavity. The robot has what we call eight degrees of freedom, meaning it can move really easily inside the cavity and gives the surgeons the feeling of operating as if they were doing open surgery. It uses a special rail system - think of it like a train hanging upside down on tracks -which gives it incredible stability. It's got a hi-res multiple-camera advanced vision system with LED lighting. Nothing else on the market comes close to what this can do.”
Add to this the fact that the new robot will reduce the number of operating room personnel needed, is far less expensive than existing technologies and is easier and faster to learn and it becomes clear why the company believes it is set to revolutionize the market.
Any pioneering technology needs investment and that was how BEV was able to help. “Once I had met Ben Radomski from BEV and explained what we did, he was confident he could introduce us to a serious investor,” says Aliman. “It took a bit of time, but with BEV's persistence and guidance and the able assistance of their Chinese partner Yufei Wu, we finally met a Chinese investor who signed a contract within 30 days of our introduction.”
Aliman is careful to point out that once the introductions have been made, it is up to the company and the quality of its product to persuade the investor to go ahead. “But the introduction itself is invaluable,” he says. “That is why BEV's contacts are so crucial, as well as the translation help they can give if needed.”
ValueBioTech clearly has a incredible future ahead of it. The M.I.L.A.N.O. Robot will remain at the development stage for a little while with the aim of being on the market in the next three to five years. But Aliman's enthusiasm and patience are boundless. “When you believe in what you're doing and have a product as innovative as this, it's worth the wait,” he says.