Serial MedTech Inventor Tackles Surgical Scarring with ZipLine Closures
There’s a straight line from Amir Belson’s boyhood dreams to ZipLine, a startup exploring new ways for patients to heal after surgery.
When Belson was six or seven, he started bringing his inventions to his father. At age nine, the Israeli youngster showed his dad a detailed drawing of an airplane that had turboprops on its wings, so it could lift off like a helicopter and then fly straight ahead.
“Since I was a kid, I was always fascinated with new ideas,” says Belson, who is now a prolific Bay area medical device innovator.
By the time Belson had become a doctor and served as a flight surgeon for Israel’s air force, he carried a piece of paper in his wallet listing 64 ideas for inventions to solve problems he had observed. He brought the list to Stanford University when he arrived for a fellowship in 1998.
Belson tapped into the Bay area’s thriving technology and funding networks, and founded his first company in 2001. Starting with one of the ideas on his wallet list, he formed Neoguide Systems, maker of a computer-guided colonoscopy scope, which was sold to Intuitive Surgical in 2009. But even while he was nurturing the growth of Neoguide, Belson kept adding to his list of 64 ideas.
Belson now has nine active companies that he founded to develop his inventions, including Campbell, CA-based ZipLine Medical, launched in 2009. The company is in the first phase of marketing a novel device to improve the process of closing surgical incisions.
The inspiration for ZipLine arose from the uneasiness Belson felt during his days as a medical resident, when he assisted an experienced surgeon with births by Caesarean section. After the delivery, the surgeon would sew up the uterus and the muscle walls, but leave the final closure of the skin to Belson.
“Guess who this poor woman hates after five years?” Belson says. Although the veteran surgeon did the bulk of the work, patients saw only the inevitable scars on their skin, he says.
Belson decided that the prevailing methods of closing surgical incisions—needles and thread, or staples—created too much pain and scarring. Now, ZipLine is selling a stick-on surgical closure that eliminates the need to pierce the skin. The device, which is quickly applied and then tightened to close the incision gap, reduces scarring and cuts down on costly operating room time, Belson says.
Sewing or stapling puts the most stress on the points where the skin is punctured, depriving that small area of blood flow and oxygen, Belson explains. The localized pinching of tissue starts the process of fibrosis and scarring.
“This tiny point sees all the tension,” Belson says. ZipLine devices are designed to distribute the stress more evenly across the skin, and reduce pain.
ZipLine closures are made up of two Band-aid-like strips that surgeons apply on either side of an incision, parallel to the cut. The two sticky strips are connected across the incision’s opening by a series of thin plastic ties. Each tie has a small ring at one end. To bring the edges of the incision together, surgeons pull on the rings of each of the plastic cords, which are studded with little bumps that ratchet through small clips. Once the cords are tightened, the bumps prevent them from slipping back through the clips.
The goal is to deliver the advantages of each of the traditional methods of closing incisions. Staples, such as those typically seen in knee surgeries, are quick. But they can leave scars that look like … Next Page »