UNMC, Invest Nebraska fuel new startup company

by Charlie Litton, UNeMed | April 08, 2013

Image with caption: Hani Haider, Ph.D.

Hani Haider, Ph.D.

About 15 years ago, Hani Haider, Ph.D., had an idea.

Dr. Haider, a mechanical and biomedical engineer and professor of orthopedic surgery research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, his laboratory team and a team of UNMC orthopedic surgeons thought hip and knee replacement surgeries could be better.

The problem: A successful joint replacement requires a talented surgeon with a mastery of skills gained through countless hours of experience and repetition. Success also requires specialized nurses, staff and very costly and cumbersome mechanical implant alignment instruments.

It's been that way for decades. Modern computer-aided navigation solutions and surgical robotics have not been widely adopted in this field.

"I changed careers late, and when you come in with fresh eyes, you can think outside the box a little."

Hani Haider, Ph.D.

Dr. Haider, who spent the first half of his career in fluid dynamics, saw a unique solution to the problem - one with the potential to transform joint replacement surgeries in the future. The award-winning solution, pioneered in Nebraska, is navigated freehand cutting.

"I changed careers late," he said, "and when you come in with fresh eyes, you can think outside the box a little."

But a great idea gets nowhere without some help.

First and foremost, the UNMC joint replacement surgeons, led by Kevin Garvin, M.D., embraced the concept and supported the creation of the Orthopaedics Biomechanics & Advanced Surgical Technologies Laboratory.

To be successful, navigated freehand cutting would also need an infusion of fresh capital and a savvy entrepreneur experienced in the biomedical industry.

Those elements came together for Dr. Haider, and the result is Trak Surgical, Inc., a new Omaha-based surgical device company with enough funding to create as many as seven high-skilled, high-paying biomedical jobs.

"This company is a fantastic example of the university, private enterprise and government working together to create high growth companies and jobs in Nebraska," said Michael Dixon, Ph.D., president and CEO of UNeMed Corporation, the technology transfer arm of UNMC.

UNeMed helped file the patent applications and worked with Dr. Haider through a nine-year process of testing, fund-hunting and match-making - a process that is still months, if not years, from impacting patients.

Bruce Lichorowic, an entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, formed Trak Surgical, Inc. in 2012, signing on as Trak Surgical's CEO and quickly lining up investors in California, Texas and Arizona.

Invest Nebraska, a venture development organization that seeks out technology and high-growth Nebraska entrepreneurs, effectively routed the new company to Omaha with a recent $500,000 matching capital investment.

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Paula Turpen
April 09, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Fantastic outcome for this hard working, dedicated and talented team!