Surgical markers aim to reduce margin of error

A Wisconsin surgeon invents a device that allows doctors to mark tissue margins in the operating room for more accurate cancer readings.

By — Posted March 2, 2009

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Making sidelines pay

Business Pitch

Doctors who branched out beyond running their practice tell why they did it, how they did it, and what you should know before you do it.
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Name: Michael Phillips, MD

Specialty: Surgeon

Location: Oconomowoc, Wis.

Company: Vector Surgical, which manufactures and sells MarginMarker, a sterile inking device that allows surgeons to mark cancerous tissue excised in the operating room identifying it for the pathologist. Different colored inks are applied to different tissue margins instead of sutures, reducing or eliminating the current margin of error and resulting in fewer reoperations and less cancer recurrence, said Dr. Phillips, who co-founded the company.

MarginMarker kits are available in three or six colors, which can be customized to a surgeon's specifications. The kits, for which patent is pending, are available online (link).

Annual revenue: Dr. Phillips declined to give the company's revenue. Prices for the product range from $75 for a three-color kit to $125 for a six-color kit.

Why he started the business: "I have seen problems and wanted to fix them before, but never acted on them. Then I would see someone else develop a solution to that problem five to 10 years later. I felt so strongly about this that I couldn't let it go. I saw it saving lives and improving care," Dr. Phillips said. His wife, Janet, runs the company.

Why he continues to practice: "I come up with my ideas through my practice. Plus, I enjoy practicing medicine. I am not ready to give it up."

Words of wisdom: "Believe in your idea and ignore the naysayers. Don't let anyone sway you from finding a way to produce your product."

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