This Cleveland Startup is Giving Surgeons a Tool Once Thought of as ‘Impossible’

arthrofree medical device being handled by doctor

How Lazurite is reinventing the surgical camera with a first-of-its-kind wireless device

A crucial part of innovation is moving past the idea that something can’t be done. For consumer technology, that innovation can improve customers’ daily lives. In FinTech companies, it can change how we feel about finance. But for those who dare to think beyond the traditional boundaries of medical technology, the benefit can be saving lives. That kind of innovation is at the heart of Cleveland’s Lazurite, a startup that sits on the precipice of a major breakthrough.

“We’re in the business of improving technology in the operating room,” said President Leah Brownlee. “Our first product is a wireless surgical camera. A lot of people have tried and failed to make wireless surgical cameras, but we had our first prototype four years ago. Since then, we’ve been able to refine the product with the right wireless technology, invent a new light source and improve on battery technology to implement all this tech for the very first surgical camera to be approved by the FDA, hopefully a few months from now. We’ve invented a couple different technologies along the way, which we’re using to build out a pipeline of other products.”

Founded in 2015, Lazurite was born when founder Eugene Malinskiy was observing a surgery and saw a team member injure themselves when they tripped over the cables used for imaging in the operating room. He and others realized that something needed to change, and got to work on a device that would eliminate the need for cables. Seven years later, that dream is coming to fruition with the ArthroFree System. The battery-powered camera connects wirelessly to a video monitor and uses a light that requires less energy and doesn’t get hot to the touch.

“The entire system that we make can fit in my hands, and that replaces something that looks like a pretty big tower that stands in an operating room today, with a bunch of cables coming out draped across the patient,” Brownlee said. “People have tried to develop a wireless camera before — the first patent was filed in 2013 by one of the big medical tech companies. But they and others weren’t able to progress their idea. When something seemed impossible, we just figured out how to do it instead of quitting.”

As they await FDA approval and clearance for sales, the ArthroFree camera is already getting rave reviews from clinicians. Lazurite has worked with surgeons from University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic, with plans for others, including The Ohio State University. Those surgeons are excited for a new technology that will dramatically improve their ability to do critical work.

“Orthopedic or endoscopic surgeons thought that the way they did surgery 25 years ago still had to be the way they do surgery today,” Brownlee said. “When I talk to surgeons, they’ve never thought about a world without wires or how much the wires in the operating room impact how they do their jobs. A trauma surgeon from UH told us that she sees a future where the wires don’t distract her from patient care during surgery. She can stop worrying about where the wires are at all times and instead worry about what she’s seeing on the screen and what’s happening with her patient.”

Now, in advance of the ArthroFree approval, Lazurite is bracing for a year of growth. The company is expanding its team and workforce so that when they begin moving products, they can amp up their growth and expand their offerings at a rapid pace.

“It’s going to be an incredibly exciting year,” Brownlee said. “We started 2022 by moving headquarters to a space that’s twice the size because in the next year or two, we’ll be doubling and then tripling the size of the company. We expect to have market clearance by mid-year, which means we’ll be launching sales. With sales comes revenue, so as we grow we can increase the speed of our research and development.”

And with so much growth and potential on the horizon, the Lazurite team knows they’re in good hands in Cleveland and Ohio more broadly. With access to great talent, globally recognized health systems and a booming startup economy, Brownlee said they’re in an ideal location to capitalize on the growth to come.

“Beside the fact that we’re all from Cleveland and thrilled to not have to move to another city to have our dream jobs, Ohio is known for its world-class health systems and medical facilities,” she said. “We have physicians locally that we can engage with and who are available to work with tech companies. And we have investors from across Ohio, from The Ohio State University to venture firms. So we’re able to engage with world-class surgery centers, hospitals and investors all within a drive of a couple of hours.”

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