EnAcuity to develop visualisation technology for minimally invasive surgery

6 February 2024

A new spinout company from UCL and Imperial has received pre-seed funding to develop AI technology that could make laparoscopic surgery more effective.

EnAcuity’s technology could help surgeons carry out laparoscopies more safely and effectively by highlighting functional information in the body that is hard for the eye to detect.

Laparoscopies are a form of minimally invasive surgery performed on the abdomen using small incisions and a thin tube with a video camera that shows the surgeon what is going on inside the patient’s body. Traditionally, the cameras reproduce on screen what the surgeon would see for themselves if they were performing open surgery.

The company’s technology could transform laparoscopic surgery and enable surgeons to perform the procedures more precisely by displaying functional information that is undetectable to the naked eye.

Dr Maria Leiloglou, EnAcuity’s co-founder and CEO and an honorary research fellow in Imperial’s Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery and at UCL, said: “Surgeons have difficulty detecting some pathologies such as cancer and surgical structures of interest such as vessels and nerves, partly because the human eye is not sensitive enough to pick up on the subtle colour differences that distinguish them. By providing more information, our solution could mark a significant advancement in the field of minimally invasive surgery.”

EnAcuity’s technology could also provide an alternative to hyperspectral imaging devices, which are better at discriminating colours than the human visual system but have drawbacks. Dr Leiloglou said that their disadvantages include being bulky, causing delays in surgical procedures, and compromising the overall image quality.

EnAcuity’s solution uses cameras already used in the operating theatre, paired with AI computer vision models trained to recognise tissue structures and pathologies, which are then highlighted on the screen for the surgeon.

The company builds on years of research at Imperial and UCL and has received entrepreneurship support from Imperial’s WE Innovate and the Wellcome Trust Hamlyn Accelerator for Surgical Innovation programmes.

Its founding team includes Professor Daniel Elson in Imperial’s Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery and Department of Surgery and Cancer, Professor Danail Stoyanov, Director of UCL’s Wellcome / EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences (WEISS), and Department of Computer Science, and Dr Tobias Czempiel, Chief Technology Officer, a PhD graduate from TU Munich with extensive experience in surgical data science who holds honorary research fellowships at Imperial and UCL.

Professor Stoyanov said: “Extending surgical visualisation beyond the limits of the human eye can be transformational in enhancing patient treatment. This venture to translate work from the UK’s leading surgical technology centres into a clinical system embodies our mission to bring foundational research to the benefit of patients.”

UCLB Senior Business Manager, Physical Sciences and Engineering, Dr Weng Sie Wong, added: “It’s been exciting to be involved in the commercialisation process of EnAcuity from the outset from supporting the team with IP protection to completion of the funding round.”

Dr Simon Hepworth, Director of Enterprise at Imperial College London, concluded: “My congratulations to the EnAcuity team for reaching this important milestone. This is not only about deploying advanced AI technology but also targeting important clinical needs and ultimately creating better outcomes for patients. We’re proud to support EnAcuity and to collaborate with UCL and commercial partners to help make the company a success.”