Interview with Mark Slack

At a recent dinner hosted by entrepreneurs’ network, E2E, we caught up with Mark Slack, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer at CMR Surgical. We spoke about his journey as a MedTech entrepreneur and the future of robotics in healthcare.

Q1: You started your career as a Doctor in the NHS. What were your motivations for starting CMR Surgical?

Mark: Throughout my career, I have been involved in innovation and inventions. I had previously taken two inventions to global release with a major pharmaceutical company but wanted to do more to help people get access to minimal access surgery (MAS). Although MAS has 50% lower complication rate, the uptake remains relatively poor because of the difficulties of mastering keyhole surgery. We realised there was a gap in the market for robots. I did not like the existing solutions that were on offer.

Q2: How did you identify the gaps in the market and decide to pursue the use of robotics in healthcare?

Mark: Despite robotics having been available for 20 years it had only penetrated 2-3% of the minimal access market. Surgical robots provide a practical way to perform complex and strenuous surgery through MAS. I believed that by building a better robot, we could increase their adoption and, as a result, improve patient outcomes.

Q3: Having started your career in a less outwardly commercial role, what growing pains did you face when starting the business? And how important were your co-founders?

Mark: I had quite a strong understanding in business, a very strong one in innovation and an even stronger one in MedTech development. My co-founders and I continue to get on well and still rely on each other for help.

Q4: Getting a product to market in the healthcare sector can be costly – and can need significant external investment. CMR Surgical went through a series of funding rounds in the past few years including what has been celebrated as Europe’s largest private financing round in medical technology. What advice could you give to early-stage healthcare innovators when approach capital raising?

Mark: Be honest and have data to share. Do not make the same infamous mistake as Elizabeth Holmes – investors certainly won’t. Get data as soon as possible. Be exceptionally well prepared.

Q5: You remain a practicing clinician and on the staff of Cambridge’s clinical school of medicine. How important has this connection to the field been as a business owner and as CMR Surgical’s Chief Medical Officer?

Mark: My clinical connections, both preceding this work and currently, give me a credibility with our target audience – medical practitioners.

Q6: As we look past Brexit and Covid 19, what opportunities do you see for British healthcare companies to lead global innovation?

Mark: We have such a strong academic sector but lack the ambition or belief to succeed. I cannot count how many people told me we were being foolish and should try something less ambitious. We must support and encourage innovation.

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