Clearcam Inc.'s Kelling device has an improved view of the market thanks to the closing of a $2.6 million series 2 seed financing round, led by Austin and Houston investor and entrepreneur Frank Barbella, CEO of Solv Risk Solutions. Barbella is a returning investor. Clearcam's Kelling is a "windshield wiper for a laparoscope" that keeps laparoscopic lenses clear during procedures without having to remove the scope.
The device can be used “in any standard laparoscopic procedure in general surgery of the abdomen, gynecological surgery or thoracic surgery,” Doug Stoakley, president, COO, and co-founder of Austin, Texas-based Clearcam, told BioWorld.
“Kelling is unique in that it cleans all debris (blood, fat, condensation, cautery residue) that obscures the lens of the scope during laparoscopy without having to remove the scope. There are devices that focus on smoke and condensation, but to our knowledge, we are the only solution that successfully cleans the natural lens of the scope in vivo,” he added.
Clearcam was founded in 2018 and received FDA clearance for Kelling in February 2020. A similar scope cleaning product for robotic surgeries, Galaxie, is in development.
"I have been so impressed with the level of discipline and execution the team has shown over the past two years,” said Barbella, who also led the initial seed round in 2018. “This team has gone from an idea to an FDA cleared product, that they are manufacturing, in 24 months. They are also advancing their product line. It is a team I'm proud to support and be a part of."
The company plans to continue on its aggressive path to market.
"Receiving the support of our investors, new and returning, and particularly during this tumultuous time of COVID-19, accelerates our mission to improve clinician visualization in the OR," said Clearcam CEO and co-founder John Uecker, an associate professor at the University of Texas Dell School of Medicine and a general surgeon. "We will be in human cases in early September and strategically expanding into the market later this fall; it is a thrilling time for the team."
Surgeons perform more than 3.5 million laparoscopic surgeries annually in the U.S. and nearly 15 million worldwide. That number continues to climb as physicians prefer the minimally invasive surgeries with their reduced time in the operating room, lower complication rates and faster recovery times.
A challenge often develops during abdominal, thoracic or pelvic operations as the lens at the end of the laparoscope becomes covered by blood, fat or other material that obscures the surgeon’s view of the target area. Currently, cleaning the lens requires removing the scope from the patient.
“We lose our visual platform and our visual field, and we have to re-orient ourselves when we put the scope back in,” explained Uecker, who performs about 350 laparoscopic surgeries each year. “We are doing very detailed and precise work and we are constantly being interrupted; you do not need to be a clinician to understand how frustrating that must be.”
Clearcam’s research indicates that surgeons clean laparoscopes between six and 20 times per hour, Stoakley said.
Sliding Kelling over a standard laparoscope takes just seconds. A wiper component over the lens is controlled by a wheel on the handle on the other end that the surgeon can use to clear the lens as needed during a surgery. It works essentially as a manual windshield wiper.
The concept for Kelling, named for the Greg Kelling, a pioneer of laparoscopic procedures, arose in response to the frustration with dirty lenses during surgery expressed by Uecker to students in co-founder Christopher Rylander’s engineering biodesign class at the University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School of Engineering. A student, and subsequent company co-founder, Chris Idleson, developed a pre-prototype of the device.
Their path to market has included support from the University of Texas at Austin and its Innovation Center as well as the Texas Health Catalyst, the Austin Technology Incubator, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and the Medtech Innovator Accelerator.
"We have been delighted by the interest of the medical community in our product and we are driving to meet that demand as quickly as we can," said Stoakley. "Our investors have just enabled us to rapidly deliver Kelling to market and still develop new technologies that address the explosive robotic surgery market- we couldn't be more appreciative."