Market Insight

Companies to Watch – SMAIO

By Matthew Henshaw

Oct 01, 2020 · 5 min read

Part of the series 'Companies to Watch', here is an introduction to SMAIO, and their way to disrupt the market

SMAIO is an exciting company boasting significant investment from the Japanese group Otsuka Medical Device. First, designed by deformity surgeons from the USA and Europe, who publish regularly on the topic of sagittal balance, ‘Kheiron’ pedicle fixation system, uses an original screw and connector structure to provide fantastic stability and reduction capabilities for patients requiring spino pelvic realignment. In parallel, KEOPS 3D spine balance analyzer is a planning system of the highest calibre. Finally, to foster planned and perfectly executed realignment surgery, SMAIO is able to offer a personalised service to surgeons, planning system, benchmarking and data management.

Here, Romain Schneeweis, vice president of sales and marketing at SMAIO, discusses the company’s value in the market and ambitions for the future:

What does SMAIO offer and what makes you different?

SMAIO successfully shifted from software and data to developing implants and services. This gives us a different point of view when it comes to the spinal assessment and spino-pelvic parameters analysis, considering that merely providing a ‘screw’ is not an option anymore. The shift to the role of manufacturer allowed us to create a different kind of implant based on data collected with our surgeon partners over many years, spanning more than 150,000 cases. We built a solution where the software and the implant would bring the spinal column to the ideal shape of the rod for each patient whether undergoing a first or a revision surgery. We are a dynamic and pro-active company and are fortunate enough to be surrounded by international scientific minds and technological experts ‘creating solutions for tomorrow’s best patient care.’

How have you approached 2020 and the pandemic? What have you achieved?

The unfortunate COVID-19 situation obviously slowed us down in the middle of the official release of our product range in Europe. While the majority of the elective surgeries were put on hold, we still had a couple of cases here and there, such as trauma or tumoural cases, requiring immediate care.

Nevertheless we were able to move our focus from ‘operation’ to ‘strategy’ and start looking at improving our marketing content – for example, demonstration models and supports, developing an app for mobile and tablets, reviewing our surgeon partners’ cases and launching our personalised medicine department. Fortunately, most of our collaborators had the autonomy and resources to work from home and keep on performing their daily work. With the EU-MDR situation changing in the middle of the pandemic, the regulatory, quality and validation team were extremely busy and had an intense job ahead of them.

Our ambition is – of course – to grow internationally and make our technologies available to the majority, but it’s been in SMAIO’s DNA from the beginning, to constantly be developing, as if we were still a startup. This state of mind has always helped us face challenges whether local or global.

What would you have presented at NASS this year?

We would have showcased our 4-in-1 solution consisting of a differentiating concept of Education, the 3D Planning software for patient spino-pelvic parameters assessment and personalized implants design, the new thoraco-lumbo-sacral fixation system and the patient data management software. It could be a breakthrough in the way doctors store data, link images and quality of life questionnaires to benchmark, assess, analyse and publish regarding their daily activity.

On the implant side: we have a couple of simulators that could demonstrate the potential of our screw fixation system on degenerative surgeries and deformity surgeries. On the software side: a simulation planning tool with embedded cases. We’d also offer to plan upcoming live cases from attending doctors. The logic behind that is really to identify the various curves and assess the impacts for the patient of correcting the segments, and anticipate potential Proximal Junction Kyphosis, Disc Degenerative Disease and reduce the potential of revision surgery.

What are your thoughts on the NASS meeting becoming virtual?

Being flexible is important and the last few months have shown that the spine world must be able to adapt and evolve. Many social events and corporate meetings have now become virtual and, as a result, several spinal e-communities have been born with doctors and industry experts hosting weekly webinars sharing knowledge, expertise and – ultimately – maintaining a relationship between peers.

Since April, I’ve taken many webinars and enjoyed seeing questions and answers shared amongst the audience, speakers and moderators. It’s been a lot more dynamic than in a real life congress situation where only a few stand up and ask questions in a plenary hall. The purpose of this industry is not just to deliver solutions to improve a patient’s condition but to bring innovation to medical professionals, too. Exhibitions and events are essential for building the synergy required for this. They’re also an opportunity for companies, like ours, to promote and launch new products and solutions. I do believe that switching to a virtual NASS meeting was the right move and shows the reactivity and proactivity of the organisation. It will maintain a connection between the industry and the medical body, even during this period of social distancing.

What are SMAIO’s plans for 2021 and beyond?

The plan for next year is centred around the extension of our thoraco-lumbar range as well as personalised medicine solutions with the use of our software (KEOPS), navigation and robotics. We are convinced that there are still improvements to come in software imaging, navigation and the surgical result, through the hand of the surgeon and also through robotics.

We’re actively working on solutions to reduce surgical operative time and the risk of screw misplacement amongst other things. We still have a lot of projects in the pipeline and will be very excited to share these with NASS attendees.

About Romain Schneeweis, VP Sales and Marketing at SMAIO

“My mom is a nurse and my father an export manager, so I naturally ended up in the medical field, taking care of sales and marketing internationally. Passionate about spine and the spinal environment for many years, I am thrilled to evolve in an area where the ideas, concepts and technologies are constantly on the move. I am always excited to go to theatre and attend cases, whether complex or simple, where what I do on a daily basis contributes to bringing a bit of positivity to the world. Having the chance to travel and see doctors performing spinal surgeries continues to amaze me. I believe we are far from having gold standards established and that further innovation is ahead of us.”


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