Jacqui O’Connor is a biomedical engineer and co-founder of a Galway-based start-up that aims to improve healthcare, one 3D model at a time.
The idea of printing 3D models of human body parts for medical use may seem futuristic to some, but one Irish start-up based in Galway has already been pioneering in the area.
MedScan3D, founded by Jacqui O’Connor and James Wall in 2019, develops highly accurate, patient-specific anatomical models from various human body scans. The models are targeted towards healthcare professionals, including cardiologists, oncologists and surgeons.
“Placing real anatomy in the hands of healthcare professionals reduces the patient’s risk and a more successful outcome is likely, with less unexpected issues arising in the theatre setting,” says O’Connor, whom we recently interviewed ahead of National Women’s Enterprise Day.
When she established MedScan3D back in 2019, O’Connor was on maternity leave for the second time in two years. Today, many important milestones and awards later, the 3D printing company services more than 40 medical groups with its models.
“These models can also be used for educational purposes for the team and for the patient in question. Our models are not just for surgical planning, they are also used by research engineers to provide test models for their medical devices,” she explains.
“They can be made in a variety of materials for applications in medical device prototyping and testing. Customisable medical models to suit a specific area which will optimise their testing procedures at all stages of device development.”
With a background in chemistry and biomedical engineering, O’Connor has worked in various roles in healthcare, including as a technical manager in a nutraceutical start-up, a research assistant at University of Galway and a technical sales rep at an orthopaedic implant company.
“My experience and academic background have given me a broad range of experience which I bring with me with my current venture as an entrepreneur,” she says.
‘We saw a gap in the market’
Wall, her husband and strategic adviser at MedScan3D, runs a 3D printing company which provides 3D printers, maintenance and support to medium and large-scale companies.
“While on [maternity] leave, I decided that I no longer wanted to return to my sales role due to the unpredictable nature of the work. I wanted a better work-life balance,” O’Connor says.
“I began brainstorming with James, and with my medical sector background and his 3D printing knowledge, we saw a gap in the market and MedScan3D was born.”
According to O’Connor, developing the right testing model is of “utmost importance” for getting an implant to its most optimal stage, which, in turn, will provide the surgeon with the best device for treating the patient in question.
“MedScan3D streamlines what is normally a complicated process and provides a full turnkey solution, all in house. This provides a quick turnaround of customisable models with no 3D printing technology limitations – which meets the demands of fast-paced R&D teams,” she says.
“Currently there is no other company that provides all aspects of medical scan conversion, [computer-aided] design adaptation and 3D printing of patient-specific models. We pride ourselves on our consultancy basis and providing an extension to the R&D team.”
The start-up has been exporting its models to blue-chip companies based in high-tech markets such as North America, Israel and France.
O’Connor says the strategy is to sell through major and emerging players already established in the fast-growing field of medical simulation, and expand through current customers, while “exponentially increasing” the export market, especially in North America.
“Our vision is to foster a change in approach, where every healthcare professional can harness the power of 3D printing at the point of care, ensuring tailored and timely interventions that redefine the standard of patient care,” she says.
“Together, we aim to build a healthier world, where innovation meets compassion, and patients receive the individualised care they deserve.”
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