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.
Whether you're from a successful entrepreneurial family or you're starting out on your own, it's never too early to seek sound advice. Whatever stage of your entrepreneurial journey you're at, we're here to support you.