Tomas Puusepp, Executive Director of the Board of Elekta and its former CEO, recently visited the Foundation and shared his experience in providing an emerging technology (the Gamma Knife) to the patients who need it. His thoughts on taking risks, competition, and overcoming barriers provide many valuable insights that apply to focused ultrasound.

When Puusepp joined Elekta in 1988, it was a $5 million company with a staff of 22—today it has $1.5 billion in revenue and 4,000 employees. With a background in electrical engineering and physics, he advanced through the management ranks within Elekta to serve as President and CEO from 2005 through April 2014.

tomas-puusepp

“As long as you capitalize on change and are ahead of the curve, you can succeed.”—Tomas Puusepp

Puusepp recognizes the benefit of a foundation in supporting technology. “It took decades for the Gamma Knife to become a standard of care. However, after we established the Leksell Gamma Knife Society, we gained traction much faster. If an organization similar to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation existed for advancing stereotactic radiosurgery from the start, this time would have been much shorter.”

Puusepp sees parallels between the path of the Gamma Knife and the development of focused ultrasound. “But today the barriers are higher, competition is harder, and healthcare economics are changing. These changes bring opportunities,” he said, adding, “Successful endeavors often impact the rules rather than just follow them. Developing disruptive technologies takes more risks than just following the group.”

Growing medical device companies can benefit from the three key tips offered by Puusepp:

  1. Invest in champions to create evidence and spread support. In the early days at Elekta, we developed a strong relationship with leading institutions such as the University of Virginia under the leadership of Neal Kassell and his team. Neal was passionate about the technology and helped build his career on developing the gamma knife into a treatment option.
  2. More data through informatics allows for solutions, not just the development of a technology. Collect and distribute data to help contribute to the success of your users and their patients, and possibly even open up new streams of revenue based on value.
  3. The group that is prepared to take the extra step to influence the environment and not take no for an answer will be the group that succeeds.

Puusepp praised the positioning of the Foundation, stating, “The role of the Foundation is critical. It’s a wonderful model because it is independent.” He encourages the Foundation to continue to push the community to take risks and do things that others won’t do, adding, “Neal questions and challenges a lot, and that’s good. It takes a big drive and a lot of guts. If the Foundation and the focused ultrasound community can sustain the energy level to continue their work, mankind will ultimately benefit.”

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