Machnet Sunram © Vincent Groenhuis
Author profile picture

Machnet Medical Robotics is a new UTwente spinoff that focuses on developing a robot for MRI-guided biopsies. The application is primarily focused on taking biopsies of early-stage breast cancer. The University of Twente and the existing company Machnet Holding BV are both shareholders in Machnet Medical Robotics BV.

According to Jeroen Veltman, who works as a radiologist at Ziekenhuisgroep Twente and is closely involved in this initiative, the medical robot offers a range of benefits. “With this MRI compatible robot technology, the radiologist will be able to position a biopsy or treatment needle in a very accurate way. The role of MRI in diagnostics is increasing and patients’ personalised treatment plans require increasingly accurate diagnostics. This new development offers all kinds of possibilities to improve care. In addition to applications for the breast, it is to be expected that, for example, MRI-guided prostate diagnostics and treatment or MRI-guided vascular interventions will also benefit.

The foundation for the robot comes from the research group of Stefano Stramigioli, who works on the development of medical robots as a professor of Advanced Robotics. Within this group, Françoise Siepel and Vincent Groenhuis collaborated closely with Stramigioli on the technology behind the new biopsy robot, for which a patent application has since been submitted. Abe van der Werf, whose company Machnet achieved success by developing RF coils for MRI machines, came into contact with the researchers a few years ago and saw opportunities to develop this robot together with the University and bring it to market.

Centre of Expertise at UTwente

Machnet Medical Robotics will become the centre of expertise in Twente for the development of robotic applications in radiology. This ties into the ambitions of the University of Twente’s TechMed Centre, which collaborates with physicians, technical medicine professionals, engineers and entrepreneurs on the development and implementation of the latest surgical and treatment techniques. The establishment of the centre of expertise coincides with that of a research and education programme by the UT and Siemens Healthineers, which is designed to allow medical professionals to perform image- and robot-controlled procedures much more accurately and successfully in the future.

From prototype to certification

Nico Arfman, director of Machnet, will be in charge of the company. “In the coming years, we will develop the existing prototype into a certified medical device that is ready for the medical market. To do so, we are putting together a team, further substantiating our business plan and looking for funding for these follow-up steps.” Novel-T’s knowledge transfer office, OostNL, Health Valley and Holland Innovative were involved in the realisation of this spinoff.