Interview with Simon Sonntag: CEO, Virtonomy

Dr. Simon Sonntag, CEO & Co-Founder of Virtonomy, has worked in the medical device field for over a decade and has experienced first-hand the challenges of developing and bringing a medical device to market and clinical practice. Using simulation technology in this field for over ten years, he has seen the tremendous potential of combining it with digital patient twins to support medical device development and the regulatory process and clinical trials. He learned that there is a massive demand from the industry to reduce the time, cost, and risk involved in developing medical products, and these so-called in silico methods can achieve this. Therefore, in 2020, he co-founded Virtonomy with the clear mission of changing this industry. Virtonomy is a pioneer in digital patient twins, introducing an end-to-end platform that seamlessly merges real-world patient data, artificial intelligence, multiphysics simulations, and predictive analytics to support the medical industry. Virtonomy addresses a significant problem: mitigating the elevated risks, complexities, and time constraints in medical device development, ultimately streamlining the journey to market introduction. Utilizing their advanced technology, they enable medical device developers to conduct product development and testing on the computer, reducing traditional in vivo (animal/human) and in vitro (laboratory) tests with so-called in silico experiments (computer). This makes it possible to explore the interaction of the medical device with physically accurate modeling of the in vitro setup or anatomy of the target population based on real patient data as input. Backed by the FDA and EU Commission, it’s set to cover over 40% of approvals via virtual patients and simulations. The vision of Virtonomy extends to personalized medicine in the future. Simon will be speaking at the upcoming In Silico Simulation for Medtech and Biopharma event.

When was your first encounter with 3D technology?

Simon: During my studies in Applied Mathematics with a significant focus on medical engineering and medical image processing, I first encountered 3D technology while working at TomTec Imaging Systems. This company later became part of Philips. During this time, I used Computational Fluid Dynamics for the first time, in this case, to simulate the flow through mitral valves. I remember being fascinated by the technology and the possibilities it opened up for the future of medical treatments.

What inspired you to start your company in In Silico Simulation for MedTech?

Simon: My inspiration to start Virtonomy stemmed from my background in the medical device industry. I saw firsthand the challenges of product verification and validation and the limitations of using animals and humans in testing safety and effectiveness. The vision to create a more efficient, ethical, and sustainable method led to focusing on digital twins and simulations. The potential of computer simulations in medical device development was a clear market need and an opportunity to revolutionize clinical trials. This experience and realizing the potential impact on healthcare propelled me to co-found Virtonomy.

Who inspired you the most along this journey?

Simon: I have been inspired by a diverse range of individuals throughout my journey, including engineers, medical professionals, and other entrepreneurs. Their unique perspectives and expertise have been instrumental in shaping our approach and refining our technology to meet the complex demands of the medical industry. Additionally, the professional collaborations during my early career significantly shaped my path, inspiring to explore and expand on innovative ideas in healthcare.

What motivates you the most for your work? 

Simon: What motivates me most is the potential to revolutionize healthcare through our work at Virtonomy. Enhancing the safety and efficacy of medical devices and streamlining the regulatory process significantly impacts patient care and treatment outcomes. This drives me and my team to push the boundaries of what is possible in MedTech.

What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions? 

Simon: The most significant obstacles include technical challenges related to model precision and data access for creating effective digital twins. We address these issues by enhancing data collection and processing and ensuring rigorous validation of our models to meet regulatory standards. Collaborative efforts with regulatory bodies and continuous improvement of our technologies have been key strategies.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in medical device development? What do you think is the potential solution?

Simon: One of the biggest challenges is addressing the diversity gap in R&D and clinical trials and meeting growing regulatory demands. Leveraging digital twin and in silico technology to create inclusive, accurate simulations can reduce the need for traditional clinical trials, thereby accelerating innovation and reducing development costs.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice have you heard that they should ignore? 

Simon: I would advise embracing failure as a learning opportunity, staying curious, and prioritizing building meaningful relationships. Ignore advice that encourages complacency or discourages taking risks to pursue your passions.

What’s your favorite book you read this year and why? Alternatively, what’s your favorite book of all time you read and why?

Simon: This year, my favorite book has been Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making. It resonates deeply with my entrepreneurial spirit and passion for innovation, offering insights that are practical and inspire a deeper reflection on what it means to create something truly impactful.

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