Belfast software firm scores cosmetic surgery breakthrough

18 Mar 2010

Axis Three – a Belfast-based pioneer of computerised tools for the global cosmetic surgery industry – is gearing up to apply its world-beating 3D simulation technology to the facial reconstructive surgery market.

The Invest NI-backed company is ramping up employment this year following the recent launch of new software modules that simulate the outcomes of nose, cheek and chin surgical procedures.

Axis Three is also planning a number of further hardware and software product launches in the coming months, all of which are designed to capitalise on the success of its original 3D platform and breast augmentation module – which was launched in 2007.

The highly successful first-to-market system is currently being sold in the United States where it is in routine use by more than 70 leading cosmetic surgeons. It has also been launched recently in Europe and future expansion is planned for Asia and the Middle East.

About Axis Three’s 3D simulation platform

Axis Three’s 3D simulation platform combines proprietary software and three-dimensional scanning hardware with patented image capture technology licensed exclusively from Siemens. Previously, the Siemens product had been used to measure the wheel alignment of upmarket people carriers.

The company’s unique technology superimposes a patient’s image on an underlying three-dimensional mesh, allowing them to see before and after effects of breast enlargement and facial surgeries in anatomically accurate photorealistic 3D from any angle. The platform incorporates Axis Three’s own sophisticated Tissue Behaviour Simulation Technology which takes into account individual patient attributes, such as skin elasticity.

Run on a standard PC, the system also provides practitioners with powerful surgery planning tools by capturing precise linear and volumetric measurements and simulating specific implant sizes.

Seeking surgeons

To ensure accuracy and relevancy for surgeons, Axis Three will shortly recruit leading UK and Irish maxillofacial surgeons to sit on an advisory board to provide expert input to the ongoing development of its facial products.

According to chairman, Bryan Keating, the company believes its technology offers significant potential in a number of global markets.

“We are very confident that the new face module will make an important contribution to the treatment of people requiring facial reconstructive surgery because of illness, accident or genetic reasons.

“We are the only company anywhere that is wholly dedicated to the research and development of science-based tissue behaviour simulation solutions. Our simulation platform has already proved extremely successful for breast augmentation because it allows women considering cosmetic surgery to see what the results will really look like before they make a final decision. As a direct result, plastic and cosmetic surgeons using the technology have increased the number of procedures they perform by as much as 30pc.

“An enormous amount of research and development has gone into the product. This has required a rare combination of scientific and creative skills and we have been particularly fortunate to be able to recruit people with a strong background in 3D modelling which is a particularly scarce talent.

“Our platform is extremely versatile and we are talking to a number of interested parties about a variety of potential new applications for both medical and non-medical markets,” adds Bryan.

Axis Three funding round

In 2009, Axis Three completed a £1.5m funding round led by Crescent Capital and supported by all of the company’s existing shareholders. These include Invest Northern Ireland, Clarendon Fund Management and Siemens.

The company currently employs 25 people – a figure expected to grow considerably over the next three years. Axis Three anticipates turnover will double during the current year, thanks to continuing product releases and strong sales of its breast and face products.

“Indigenous companies such as Axis Three along with recent international niche players such as Intune and Softedge Systems are looking for a unique combination of technology skills and research acumen that Northern Ireland offers,” said Jenny Young, director, Ireland at Invest NI.

“This readily available pool of experience and willingness of universities and centres of excellence here to form meaningful partnerships over the long term gives investors an upper hand in a highly competitive and critical marketplace,” Young added..

By John Kennedy

Photo: Axis Three offers 3D simulation technology when it comes to cosmetic surgery

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years