When Mark Toland joined Corindus Vascular Robotics from a high-level position at the multinational company Boston Scientific, he wasn’t thinking about the present but the future.
“It was an interesting time in the healthcare space, there were only two successful robotics companies….I joined [Corindus] because I knew the cardiovascular space. But I also I felt the world of healthcare robotics was going to evolve if done right. So I jumped in.”
Given that Toland only joined the company three years ago, it’s safe to say surgical robotics is still in its early stage of developments. But the promise is there—the industry is expected to reach $16 billion in market value by 2023. The Waltham, Massachusetts-based public company’s revenue is growing, but more importantly, the demand in its product and its purchase orders are increasing as the technology continues to get refined.
Toland, who is a director on the Corindus board, spoke to Corporate Board Member about innovation in healthcare, how he works with other directors on the Corindus board and more. Below are excerpts from this conversation.
How do you take an innovative product—like surgical robotics technology—and commercialize it and benefit from it?
In the past, a lot of the development dollars that were put into technology was around safety and speed. And now I think there’s a paradigm shift in how the procedures are done. How we think about integrating data in decision making. How we think about precision medicine at the micro millimeter level. How we think about potentially doing procedures from multiple miles away if the opportunity presents itself. How do we think about the world of automation. Those things I think represent a paradigm shift and examples of a paradigm shift of how we think about the procedure in a high-tech world of healthcare.
When we think about taking a disruptive technology in healthcare and commercializing it, we have the belief that you have to be able to do something that physician can’t do. We’ve invested a lot of development dollars in just that. When we think about scaling the business, we find the pioneering partners in the clinical community, but we really want to go test it and put a significant amount of research into it and literally a dramatic patient outcome benefit by using robotics in their practice.
We’ve done that. We’ve got around 50 hospitals around the world that I consider the pioneers of technology that are leading the charge and leading the way. So oftentimes when you’ve got technology like this, it’s not so much, hey, what did the physicians think? It’s more about what did they think when hear from their peers. And that has a profound impact on their psyche around new technology, on whether they think it’s just a trivial toy or they think it’s the future and they want to be involved in it.
How do you deal with the challenges of being a highly regulated space?
It’s funny when you talk about regulation and you’ve grown up in this space, you get numb to it. The regulations we live under, I believe they’re fairly easy to work with as long as you have a good relationship with regulatory bodies like the FDA, we’ve received a 10 approvals out of 10 submissions from the FDA and have a good track record. In addition, we’ve passed all of our FDA audits that have come through. We’ve done a similar approach in Japan with the regulatory body over there and developed a really good working relationship with them.
We put a significant emphasis on our patient safety with robotics and believe that’s the cornerstone to any regulatory body that would be scrutinizing robotics in healthcare. Is the robot safe or not? We’ve got a significant track record proving that over and over again with cases to support it in the clinical community. I think the regulations are appropriately put in place to ensure that other companies out there that don’t have the same priorities in mind don’t necessarily damage the perception of the space that I believe is so vital to the future of healthcare.
Talk to me about working with the board of directors and your advice to CEOs on getting the most out of its board.
I think the relationship between the board and Wall Street investors is something that’s top of mind for any CEO, particularly in the healthcare space. We have a very good working relationship with our board that I consider actively engaged. There are some boards out there that are probably less engaged on the operational side of it. This boar, and as well as the investors we have, is actively engaged in following our story, being a part of the process and helping the company succeed. And that’s been very beneficial for us as we continued to raise capital over the course of the last three years since I’ve been here.
I think the support of the board and the investment community for Corindus is second-to-none in the robotics space. What’s nice is since I’ve got here is we’ve brought in some really great minds on the board. One of the people we have on the board now is a retired CFO for JP Morgan. Doug Braunstein. We have another board member we recently brought on is the previous CEO for Boston Scientific, Jim Tobin. So you put two guys like that on the board with the existing directors and we call it the “blue chip board.”