For Koreans, knee osteoarthritis is a disease as frightening as cancer. Degenerative arthritis, which affects 60% of the population aged 65 or older in Korea, is a disease that causes inflammation and pain due to damage to joints or cartilage with age. According to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, an average of 4 million people visit hospitals due to degenerative arthritis recently.
As damage from sports activities increases with aging, the number of artificial joint surgeries is also increasing. The number of artificial joint surgeries in Korea is expected to more than double by 2030 from about 180,000 in 2020.
Arthroplasty is a surgical procedure in which damaged cartilage is removed and an artificial joint is inserted, requiring sophisticated and precise techniques. Arthroplasty is still mostly performed manually. Although surgical robots have been introduced, they remain in the role of guides.
Noh Doo-hyun (40), a professor of orthopedic surgery at Seoul National University Hospital, started developing a robot himself to solve this inconvenience. Prof. Noh, who has personally experienced discomfort during the surgical procedure while conducting artificial joint surgery for the past 15 years, founded Connective, a medical AI startup, in May 2021.
Professor Noh, who we met on the 15th at Seoul National University Hospital Convergence Medical Technology Institute in Jongno-gu, Seoul, said, “I dreamed of going to engineering school before going to medical school, but eventually I ended up setting up a medical AI robot company.”
Professor Noh aims to increase accuracy and reduce time by automating robotic surgery. He said, “Current robotic artificial joint surgery is a system that requires a person to click 500 times with a computer mouse. ”By developing a surgical robot combined with , we will drastically reduce the number of clicks and increase accuracy, cutting the surgery time in half, which used to take 40 minutes.”
Currently, there are around 10 companies worldwide that are developing artificial joint surgical robots. However, Connective is the only company that develops the entire cycle from X-ray reading and analysis to surgery design, side effect prediction, and surgery with software and hardware.
‘Connective X’ / Courtesy of Connective
Connective has developed ‘Connective X (X-ray)’, an automatic reading software that can accurately and quickly check X-rays during short outpatient treatment. It is currently undergoing the licensing process and is set to be officially launched at the end of the year. Professor Noh said, “Blood pressure and diabetes are expressed as numerical values, but orthopedic diseases only have qualitative analysis.
He also said, “Orthopedic diseases are not cured immediately, and there are many diseases that need to be managed continuously, so we need to lead patients with detailed explanations.” I did it,” he added. It has also developed ‘Connective P ( Planning
)’ that can precisely plan surgery using only X-rays . If you enter the patient’s age and basic information, the treatment success rate is displayed. Connective P has been used as a research system at Seoul National University Hospital, Yonsei Severance Hospital, Asan Medical Center, and Jeju National University Hospital, and 10,000 cases of analysis have been performed so far. In addition, Connective is developing ‘Connective C ( CT )’, an AI- based 3D surgical design software, and linking it with ‘Connective R ( Robot )’, a hardware robot. ‘Connective S ( Safe )’, which helps predict side effects such as blood transfusion, kidney side effects, and delirium after artificial joint surgery, is also being upgraded.
Professor Noh Doo-hyun of Connective demonstrates artificial joint surgery using ‘Connective C’ . / Provided by Connective
Professor Bang Bang-bong of the Department of Convergence Medicine at Seoul National University Hospital, a medical robot expert, is actively cooperating with Connective’s robot development research. Seoul National University Hospital established the Institute of Convergence Medical Technology and the Department of Convergence Medicine in 2020 with the goal of developing new medical technology, and is actively promoting convergence research that encompasses medicine, engineering, and science. Professor Noh aims to develop an artificial joint surgery robot by 2025.
Connective, which received seed investment from Kakao Ventures and Schmidt in August of last year, is also set to attract Series A investment at the end of this year. It was also selected for the Deep Tech Tips ( TIPS ) project, one of the super-gap project projects of the Ministry of SMEs and Startups, and received R&D funding for three years. The following is a question and answer.
–When did you feel the need for artificial joint surgery robots?
“I felt it as soon as I started my specialty. I had to measure the bone angle myself and perform the surgery manually like an Italian craftsman. It took too long and was cumbersome. Most orthopedic surgeons will feel it. I am very interested in engineering, so I want to actively solve this inconvenience. I will have to see patients for at least 20 years from now메이저놀이터, so I thought I had to change this. I was curious about whether it was possible to perform surgery with a robot, so I experimented with bovine bones in the hospital’s AI lab, tested it at a scanning company, and tried everything.”
– Why did you choose to start a business rather than a joint research method?
“I didn’t decide to start a business from the beginning. Originally, it was intended to be developed through joint research with a large company, but the hospital was concerned about data leakage and failed. I tried to work with leading AI companies, but at the time, I was in the early stages of a startup, so I couldn’t afford the cost or time. It’s a really necessary skill, but no one did it, so I couldn’t sleep every night. After thinking about it for a month, I decided to start a business. In order to receive investment and build a professional workforce, a company had to exist. After setting up the company and meeting Professor Bang, the development accelerated.”
–How is the collaboration with the Institute of Convergence Medicine and Technology progressing?
“It is not easy for doctors to advance software and develop hardware while collaborating with engineering colleges. It also costs a lot. Because we belong to the same hospital, collaboration is easy. It is a system designed for close research by engineering colleges and medical staff for clinically helpful research, and Connective fit that purpose perfectly. AI software has been developed to some extent and is currently in the stage of interlocking with robots. At the end of the year, we plan to move the equipment to our company and upgrade it.”
– It’s an early start-up, so isn’t it difficult to combine outpatient treatment?
“I came to see an outpatient today. Currently, there are more than 1,100 people on standby for outpatient treatment. Just a year ago, there were about 400 to 800 people. That’s why the number of arthritis patients is increasing. Outpatient treatment should be the top priority, and I am doing everything from graduate school lectures, fellow interviews, investor meetings, and hiring connective staff.”
– How do you forecast competitiveness in the market?
“There are many domestic and foreign places that develop artificial joint surgery robots. However, there are no full-cycle AI programs and tools to link them with robots. There are various places that want this, such as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and artificial joint developers. First of all, we will complete the development well, release it in Korea first, and then enter the overseas market.”