Commercialization Opportunity: MRI-Enabled, Robotic, Non-Linear, Incisionless Neurosurgery

Eric Lanke NFPA CEO


by Eric Lanke

The Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) has sponsored more than 240 pre-competitive fluid power research projects in its 10-year history. Some prove to be promising candidates for commercialization by an engaged industry partner. The CCEFP’s Industry Engagement Committee recently reviewed the current projects and identified some that meet that test. Here’s one:


MRI-Enabled, Robotic, Non-Linear, Incisionless Neurosurgery (MERLIN)

Project Description: Epilepsy is a debilitating neurological disorder affecting over 2.2 million Americans. Forty percent of patients have no effective treatment option other than surgery; however up to 90% of those patients forego surgery due to risks of highly invasive open brain surgery. Our technology leverages unique characteristics of fluid-powered robotics to enable an incisionless, MRI-guided treatment alternative that improves patient outcomes and reduces hospital costs.

Value Proposition: Our technology has the potential to achieve clinical effectiveness equivalent to open brain surgery while also reducing hospital costs by $18,000 per patient by eliminating operating room time and reducing length of patient stay.

Research Student Profile: Bryn Pitt is a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at Vanderbilt who has a demonstrated interest in medical device commercialization. In Fall 2015, Bryn earned a spot as one of three students to pilot a medical device commercialization course at Vanderbilt. In Spring 2016, he led a team to develop a commercialization pitch for our technology that won the TechVenture challenge, a local pitch competition. To date, Bryn has conducted over 50 customer discovery interviews with physicians, hospital administrators, and device manufacturers, among others, in an effort to explore market opportunity and develop a regulatory and commercialization plan for our technology.

Sources of Support: Bryn has been actively involved in our ongoing negotiations with a local venture capitalist interested in starting a company to license our technology from Vanderbilt. He has also helped to engage a medical device manufacturer to draft an application for a special SBIR grant through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Bryn is interested in hearing from any fluid power company that would like to collaborate or simply learn more about this opportunity.


This opportunity is available to all companies in the fluid power industry. For more information, contact Mike Gust at 612-624-4956 or

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