An estimated 250,000 deaths occur every year due to medical errors — almost half of these in the operating room. This might even be a conservative estimate, given not all states are required to report these numbers and death certificates don’t have a checkbox labelled “medical error”.

As medical training evolves to reduce this chance of error, a Chicago startup has created a physical surgery simulation technology that it claims is more realistic than existing education tools.

Cecilie Tassone and her mother Sabina are co-founders of PraxiCut, which aims to reduce medical error by creating safe, accessible and realistic teaching models for training residents and surgeons. The founders aim to have their first product — a simulation module focused on the abdomen, specifically for liver transplants — on the market in the next three months.

“Currently, there is a lack of realistic physical models in the market for residents to practice surgery with before operating on patients,” said Sabina in an interview with Chicago Inno. “Blood doesn’t flow easily from cadavers and animals are starting to be phased out for ethical reasons.”

Designed for veno-venous bypass surgery, a temporary measure to reduce venous congestion, PraxiCut’s simulation product is perfused — it bleeds when it is cut in a way it shouldn’t have been — and works in conjunction with most traditional surgical instruments, ultrasound technology and electrosurgical tools. The founders declined to share a photo of the product itself, but explained it as a modular system that sits in housing which includes an artificial liver, adipose tissue, blood, and a pulsatile pump. The modular setting allows for easy adaptability and removal of parts, and PraxiCut has three patents pending on the proprietary blend of materials used to develop the simulation.

“We are focusing on the liver for our first product, but our technology has applications in surgeries for other organs too, like spleen, colon, pancreas. It is more like a piece — albeit, an important one — in the larger puzzle as medical education continues to evolve beyond the traditional approach of “See One, Do One, Teach One”,” said Cecilie.

The team has been conducting market and product research on existing surgical technologies for the last two years, and has recruited Dr. Alex Derevianko, a surgeon and educator with over over 30 years of experience, as their Chief Medical Officer. Cecilie, herself a biomedical engineer and published researcher from the Illinois Institute of Technology, handles the research and development, and Sabina, a graduate of DePaul University, handles all business operations.

PraxiCut is currently in discussions with two major hospitals for pilot agreements, and is working out of mHub.

“The collaborative community, mentorship and product development resources available at mHub have really allowed us to navigate what is essentially a steep learning curve when it comes to developing medical technology,” said Cecilie. Looking to actively launch fundraising efforts soon with the intention of building their team and developing more products, the team took home second place and $2,500 at DePaul’s recent “Purpose Pitch” competition — and this purpose is what guides them everyday.

“When my grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer, my mother and I became her caregivers and saw a need to make medical training more efficient,” said Cecilie. “As first time entrepreneurs, this is not an easy challenge to be tackling — but we are willing to take the risk, with the hope we can save lives one day.”

Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct description of veno-venous bypass surgery.