SensOR Medical Laboratories, a Toronto medical devices company that is developing a force-sensing film for minimally invasive surgical tools used in general surgery, urology, neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology, has won the James Dyson Award for Canada.

SensOR has developed the ForceFilm, an add-on force-sensing system for any standard minimally invasive surgical (MIS) instrument, which provides real-time force feedback for surgeons and surgical residents. The ForceFilm accurately measures the forces exerted on the tissue from the instrument tip and wirelessly communicates the force information to the surgeon via visual force-feedback – reducing the use of unsafe force levels and variability during surgery, thereby increasing surgical safety and patient satisfaction, and accelerating surgical training programs.

The James Dyson Award celebrates and publicises the work of young designers on a global platform. National winners of the James Dyson Award are selected by a panel of design and engineering professionals in each region. Projects are judged purely on quality of entry – from the significance of the design to the various iterations of the design and how the product has developed.

“This is the culmination of a lot of work from our team and a lot of support from the entrepreneurial community including the City of Toronto, who was one of our earliest supporters,” says Robert Brooks, Chief Executive Officer of SensOR Medical Laboratories. “We’re extremely proud to have received this award.”

The Toronto entrepreneurial community that provided support to SensOR includes the Ryerson Biomedical Zone, Ontario Brain Institute, Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization, and the University of Toronto's Health Innovation Hub and Hatchery incubators.

SensOR also received support from funding agencies including the Industrial Research Assistance Program, Ontario Centres of Excellence, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. This support helped make ForceFilm possible.

The ForceFilm design is unique in that it allows retrofitting of existing surgical instruments without modifying or interfering with the surgeons’ or hospital’s instruments, setup, or workflow. This is accomplished through the unique combination of wireless operation, compact design, and full sterilizability. ForceFilm uses a Bluetooth Low Energy transceiver powered from a high temperature carbon monofluoride lithum coin cell. Then the unique piston-style case protects the components from direct corrosion of steam so that the automotive-grade components can stay on the instruments during sterilization; no need to disassemble the instruments to clean them.

The next steps are to get ForceFilm into surgical education to shorten the learning curve for new surgeons as well as continue to work on our user experience. We also want to expand the models of surgical instruments the ForceFilm attaches to, so that every force-applying instrument in the surgical tray can be augmented.

After that, SensOR is looking to get regulatory approval to use the ForceFilm clinically. More information on SensOR’s Force Film is available on the James Dyson Award website.