Media > Dan E. Azagury: It is easier to innovate in healthcare in Europe than in the U.S.


Date: 7th. June 2013

Dan E. Azagury: It is easier to innovate in healthcare in Europe than in the U.S.

Expert in biodesign and founder of Ciel Medical Inc, Dan Azagury has developed 6 medical devices throughout his career.

"The purpose of the biodesign is not to make stuff, but to create something with a purpose"

He teaches at Biocat’s Design Health Barcelona program.

Barcelona, June 7th, 2013. "Even if you don’t have it in your own blood, to innovate is something you can learn. It is a mental state which, like a switch, you can decide when to turn on." This is how Dr. Dan Azagury, a surgeon at University Hospital of Geneva and a serial entrepreneur in healthcare, began his talk yesterday at Biz Barcelona, before explaining the keys to successfully bring an idea to the bedside.

90% of start-ups fail today. Dr. Azagury explained that the Biodesign innovation process developed by Stanford University is a tool that can reduce this rate because "its goal is not to make stuff, but to create something with a purpose, based on real needs identified in hospitals." Since its creation in 2001, Stanford’s program has led to 26 new companies, has attracted $200 million in venture capital investment and generated more than 500 jobs. The products designed by these new companies have been used to treat over 150,000 patients.

Dr. Azagury himself was a Stanford Biodesign fellow in 2012. His company, Ciel Medical Inc, was created during the program and currently works in the development of two devices: the first one is a technology to improve the treatment of kidney stones. The second one, a device to enhance the protection of patients in intensive care units (ICU) against intubation and mechanical ventilation systems associated pneumonia. This infection is the most common and serious one related to medical care in the ICU. The disease is associated with increased mortality, length of hospital stay and economic costs. Currently the lack of a standard definition generates both over-and under-diagnosis.

"It is easier to innovate in healthcare in Europe than in the U.S. because the law, the requirements for new products, are clearer. However, the level of innovation is lower" Azagury stressed during his lecture. The main problem is "the fear to fail. I always say that a person has to fail, preferably when it does not cost him big amounts of money. What it is not allowed is to fail twice for the same reason." According to him, modern medicine, with plenty of dogmas, discourages innovation. "Many professionals perform procedures in a certain way just because they have always done it that way and it works, without questioning themselves why, or if there are better options to improve these results and thereby patient care. Innovation is a tool as important as research to develop, for example, new treatments against cancer" he concluded.

Design Health Barcelona: from Stanford to Barcelona

d·HEALTH Barcelona, starting next September, seeks postgraduates in medicine, biosciences, engineering, economics and design who want to make a change in their careers and pursue entrepreneurship in the health sector. During eight months, selected fellows will work in multidisciplinary teams of four. The process will start with an immersion at a clinical setting in Barcelona to identify real unmet, needs. Then, fellows will design and prototype new products and services to solve them and, at the end of the program, they will pitch their innovations to a panel of investors to get the funding to implement them. Throughout the process, fellows will receive an intensive introduction to the clinical field to become experts on the chosen specialty area, will learn how to build a viable business and will receive training in areas such as design thinking or creative leadership through a series of classes and workshops taught by over 50 international experts.

The first edition of d·HEALTH Barcelona will have three to five teams of fellows. After an initial training period of five weeks (bootcamp), they will get immersed for two months (November-December 2013) in the daily routine of three hospitals in Barcelona that collaborate with the program: Barcelona Clinic Hospital, Sant Joan de Déu Hospital and Guttmann Institute. They will interact with all professionals involved in providing patient care, they will observe with fresh eyes, ask questions and identify dozens, even hundreds of unmet clinical needs.

In Phase II (January-February 2014), the teams will brainstorm, prototype and test early concepts to create, upon selected ideas, something that has value. In Phase III (March-April) fellows will build a business strategy and a plan and the program will end with an Investors' Day (Phase III-June 2014), where teams will present their products in front of an audience of investors.

d·HEALTH Barcelona is an innovative program in several ways: intensive immersion in a clinical setting, to work in a team in which knowledge (medicine, business, design ...) and experiences complement each other, new methodological approaches -based on workshops and group dynamics, presentations, open discussions with panels of experts, MOOCs ... -, the combination of master-classes on science, business and X-thinking taught by leading professionals from different backgrounds. Some of the sessions will be open to a broader audience to promote networking and interaction with the fellows.

d·HEALTH Barcelona has many national and International collaborators. One of them is KaosPilots, the prestigious Danish school of new business design and social innovation. Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius, the CEO of the KaosPilots, is a member of the program’s Advisory Board and will teach students how to become creative leaders. d·HEALTH Barcelona’s Faculty includes experts and entrepreneurs coming from health, economy and design such as John Collins, director of technology implementation at the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) in Boston; Dan E. Azagury, Stanford Biodesign 2011-12 Grube fellow and co-founder of Ciel Medical Inc (Geneva); Yossi Bahagon, founder of the e-Health wing at Clalit Health Services (Jerusalem); Chia Hwu, CEO at Qubop (Silicon Valley), David Maltz, head of device development at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Co (Silicon Valley) and Lekshmy Parameswaran, co-founder of Fuelfor healthcare design and consulting firm (Barcelona – Singapore).

d·HEALTH Barcelona is the flagship program of Moebio, Biocat’s talent development initiative to promote entrepreneurship at the intersection of technology, life sciences, health and business. Its’ goal is to develop new solutions to current challenges in healthcare from a global perspective. Moebio has an Advisory Board which includes, among others, the aforementioned Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius, director of KaosPilots, Lluís Torner, director of ICFO, John Collins (CIMIT), Yossi Bahagon (Health Services), Menno Van Dijk (THNK, The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership); Neo Kok-Beng (Stanford Biodesign, Singapore) and Xavier Verdaguer (Imagine).


Biocat is the organization that coordinates and promotes the biotechnology, biomedicine and medical technology sector in Catalonia. Created in 2006 thanks to the Government of Catalonia and the Barcelona City Council, Biocat brings together administrations, universities, research centers, companies and support bodies from all areas of the biomedicine and biotechnology sector with a major goal: to create an environment with a strong research system, active transfer of knowledge and an entrepreneurial business fabric that acts as a driving force for the country's economy and contributes to the wellbeing of society as a whole.


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