Feet in the Cloud – Part 1

Digital Orthopaedics is developing cloud-enabled modeling and simulation tools for foot surgeons and their patients

The résumés of surgeons Bruno Ferré and Thibaut Leemrijse demonstrate an impressive mastery of orthopedic surgery focused on the highly complex foot and ankle. Their extensive research and academic credentials, in their native France and Belgium as well as internationally, clearly identify them as leaders in their field. Both of them remain full-time orthopedic surgeons (Dr Ferré in a private hospital in Monaco, Dr. Leemrijse at the Foot and Ankle Institute he co-founded in Brussels). Yet not content to rest on their laurels, the two joined forces in 2016 to create a startup company called Digital Orthopaedics. Their CEO is Eric Halioua, a serial entrepreneur in the Life Sciences industry who holds Masters Degrees in pharmacology, biology and business administration. The young company’s goal is to develop a cloud-based, comprehensive Clinical Decision Support System that will enable orthopedic surgeons to personalize the planning and execution of orthopedic surgeries for patients anywhere in the world.

When the Digital Orthopaedics team reached out to SIMULIA for an Abaqus license, they learned about the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, applied, and were accepted into the Dassault Systèmes’ accelerator program. Their company is currently developing models of healthy and diseased feet using CATIASimpack, and Abaqus and building the algorithms that will power their proprietary decision-support system through the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud.

SCN interviewed Dr. Ferré and Mr. Halioua separately; the following Q&A brings together some of their comments about their exiting new venture.

Why the focus on the foot?

Ferré: About ten years ago I switched to feet—after decades of performing lower-limb surgery and implanting thousands of hip and knee prostheses—because I saw the foot as an exciting intellectual challenge. It’s a highly complex structure, both anatomically and functionally. Anatomically there are 28 bones interfacing with cartilages around 40 joints defined by more than 100 ligaments and driven by more than 30 tendons. Functionally, foot movement varies a lot depending on the muscular activation of each patient for every gait scenario—walking, running, jumping and so on. I’d been studying digital modeling for a number of years and I realized that the complexity of the foot could be best interpreted using realistic simulation.

What made you and Dr. Leemrijse decide to create your company?

Ferré: Dr. Leemrijse and I have known each other for a long time. He’s an extremely brilliant spirit who shares the same curiosity as I do and an understanding of the critical importance of shared knowledge. Together we realized that imaging, modeling and simulation presented an opportunity to truly advance diagnosis and treatment for foot surgeons and their patients. It just seemed natural to join together to form a company to achieve this!

What is the long-term goal of Digital Orthopaedics?

Halioua: We are on a journey to transform the planning and execution of orthopedic surgeries and treatment by personalizing Precision Medicine. This disruptive technology will change current one-type-treatment-suits-all thinking to a personalized therapeutic approach that takes into account the patient’s unique anatomy and functional entities. We are creating the framework necessary for developing CT- and MRI-scan based, patient specific, 3D digital models to be used to diagnose injuries and abnormalities, identify optimum treatments for every patient, and simulate surgery in silico in each patient’s virtual 3D twin. We’ll provide this framework in the form of a three-part platform offering of Knowledge Base and Diagnosis Support, Personalized 3D Surgical Simulation, and Machine Learning and Clinical Cases.

We are in the middle stages of development, not commercialized yet, but we have already received ISO 13485 certification for quality assurance of our services, which are considered a medical device. We’ve filed for a patent, will apply for European CE certification, and are in the process of preparing an FDA application as well.



This article was published in the December 2017 issue of SIMULIA Community News magazine. Coming soon, stay tuned for the second half of this article where Digital Orthopaedics talks about how the 3DEXPERIENCE on the cloud helps them achieve their objectives.