Sagi Brink-Danan

Sagi is a medical-device entrepreneur and executive. He spent  the past decade in the US, building and growing companies in orthopedics and robotic spine surgery, advanced wound healing, urology and proton radiotherapy (radiation oncology). Currently he serves as VP of business development at HIL Applied Medical, Ltd and as the founding CEO of Perfuzia Medical, Inc.  

 

Prior to his medical-device career Sagi served in an elite a Navy unit of the IDF, where he graduated Israel’s Naval Officers Academy in Haifa and attained the rank of Captain. He holds an MBA (Cum-Laude) from Babson College (Wellesley, MA) in entrepreneurship and international business, and an MSc in Biomedical Engineering from Tel Aviv University on a merit scholarship; his Master’s thesis on pain monitoring was spun off into a startup company funded by Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist. Sagi also holds a BSc in Electrical and electronics engineering from TAU. He has several scientific and medical publications, and holds 8 patent applications.  

 

How did your professional career begin?  

 

Like most good things - by chance. During my 2nd year as an undergrad in EE engineering at TAU I was offered a scholarship to join the direct program for MSc in engineering. Until that moment it had not occurred to me to get an advanced degree in Engineering – I was actually leaning more towards physics – but the offer seemed too good to pass up, so I looked around and discovered Biomedical Engineering. That turned out to be the perfect discipline for me, combining my love of medicine, a desire to do work that contributes to the public good, and my facility with science and technology. From that point on it was pretty much one thing leading to another – the formation of a startup company based on my Master’s research (although eventually I was not a part of it myself), joining Mazor Robotics (then Mazor Surgical Technologies) as its 2nd US employee and travelling the country helping to establish its North-American presence, co-founding Perfuzia Medical with Dr. Shai Schubert, a stint in Urology at SRS Medical, and most recently closing the circle and joining an old IDF Navy friend – Dr. Shmulik Eisenmann - at HIL Applied Medical.       

 

 Did you plan your professional career? How does one pave the way to a senior position?  

 

I think my own career so far - like any good entrepreneurial venture – started with a very general plan and continued with many improvisations. In one sentence, I would say it is important to have a long-term vision for your career goals then seek opportunities to move towards those goals and act upon such opportunities as they present themselves.   

 

What was the most influential experience in your career?  

 

As an undergrad student I worked part-time in an R&D capacity for a telecom startup (Seabridge Networks, acquired by Siemens). I was fortunate enough to work under Tomer Aizenberg, my team leader. One morning, while giving me a ride to work, Tomer said to me "Sagi, you are a good engineer, but your real talent is in seeing the big picture. Whatever you choose to do in the future, make sure it is in-line with this gift of yours”. This brief, unprompted observation has affected almost every career choice I have made since. It also convinced me that the most important thing anyone can do for themselves is find a good mentor, or even better – several ones.  

 

Do you have suggestions for graduates of advanced degrees who wish to join in the biotech industry, especially to those who do not have experience in the industry?  

 

Israel’s 15th Joint Chief of Staff, Rav-Aluf Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, passed away earlier this week. In every single eulogy or speech in his memory that I have heard, people mention how humble he was. Despite rising to the top, being the only person in IDF history to have received the decoration of courage twice, and despite many other achievements during and after his military service – he is remembered as a humble man and a "mentch”.  

 

I think there is a very important lesson here. In this age of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter - self- importance and self-promotion seem to have become the norm. Maybe we could all use a good measure of humility – early in a career as well as later on. It is okay to start at the bottom and work your way up; it is okay to be junior, and it is absolutely essential to always keep learning, stay curious and admit – at least to oneself – that there is a lot to be learned from the smart, experienced people around us. An advanced degree is only the beginning; the journey to a leadership position in industry starts – doesn’t end – there. I wish someone had said that to me 12 years ago…  

 

How do you view the future of the biotech industry for the coming years?  

 

With your permission I will focus my answer on the medical-device segment of "biotech”, which is the area I know and understand best.  

 

I think the future is bright. Medtech is rapidly expanding into new consumer-oriented territory in wellness, prevention and monitoring. At the same time the more traditional areas of imaging, diagnostics and treatment continue to evolve and reinvent themselves. Opportunities abound in mobile health, chronic diseases, degenerative diseases, cancer and many other areas of medicine. An interesting need that finally is beginning to be addressed by the developed world is for ultra-low-cost solutions for the developing world.  

 

Maybe most importantly in the developed markets – cost reduction is becoming THE most critical factor for new technology adoption, at least as important as clinical efficacy and ease-of-use.  

 

From an Israeli perspective I think we still have an important contribution to make on the innovation and entrepreneurial fronts, but I would love to see more companies remain local as they grow globally. Teva, the world’s largest generic drug company, is the obvious example. Do we really have to sell every successful startup? Or can we find creative solutions to provide liquidity to investors and founders while allowing the company to remain independent and local as it grows?