Portrait of Philippe Potty
Philippe Potty - Head of Medical Devices Group
Lives in Neuchâtel, grew up in Liège (Belgium)
Philippe Potty has been teaching at HE-Arc Engineering since September 2019. Prior to this position, he had a career in the medical device industry, in large companies such as Guidant, St Jude Medical and Medtronic. He is passionate about aviation, sailing and skiing.
What were the first steps in your career path?
I first worked at Guidant, a spin-off of Eli Lilly. It was a small company but with big technological assets. Indeed, within its walls had been developed the implantable automatic defibrillator. I was hired there to work on a therapy called cardiac resynchronization. This treatment is based on a device based on a pacemaker. Patients with systolic heart failure commonly have two synchronization disorders, often following a myocardial infarction: one between the atria and the ventricles of the heart; the other between the contractions of the two ventricles. Cardiac performance is reduced and the patient experiences many symptoms related to this decrease in oxygenated blood in the body. The organs function less well, resulting in, for example, reduced functional capacity, kidney failure, cognitive impairment or diabetes. The therapy consists of resynchronizing the cardiac contraction by means of electrical stimulation. It is combined with drug treatment. I have contributed to the dissemination of this therapy for about ten years (clinical research, product development and sales). Despite very good publications and excellent results in the majority of patients, the confidence of the medical profession had yet to be established.
I then worked for St. Jude Medical, which has since been acquired by Abbott. My role was to develop this same therapy at the European level. In particular, I invested considerable energy in creating training for medical specialists and clinical support staff. This led me to become head of the Neuromodulation Therapy Training Department at Medtronic, whose training center and European headquarters are in Tolochenaz (Vaud). I was able to work on very different treatments, for example for patients with chronic pain, Parkinson's disease, spasticity or obsessive-compulsive disorders. These treatments are particularly interesting because they require a multidisciplinary approach. I have been able to collaborate with anaesthetists, neurologists and psychologists. Experience shows that this type of approach produces the best results for patients.
Then I moved to Baar (Zug, CH), to take over "Cardiac Rhythm Management" and electrophysiology. The position encompassed many dimensions such as marketing strategies, clinical marketing, product launches, training for Western Europe and Canada, as well as operational management. I was confronted with numerous regulations, reimbursement systems and medical thinking.
Finally, when this professorship was opened at HE-Arc Engineering, I thought it was an opportunity to come back to Neuchâtel and share what I had learned during my 20 year career in the medical industry.
What are your ideas for commercializing the research developed at HE-Arc?
He-Arc has two main missions. Firstly, teaching. As teaching feeds on research, in order to remain at a credible level of performance in medical devices, it is obvious that we need to do research in this field. We are a university of applied sciences with the corresponding resources and means. On the other hand, we can rely on a solid and historical know-how in microtechnology. In our second mission, we want to support start-ups and small companies in developing prototypes. Indeed, these organisations do not necessarily have the right machine at their disposal or the specific skills needed in certain fields. In such cases, we regularly call on research support tools such as Innosuisse. The HES-SO also provides financial support for projects created directly in the school's departments or between two UAS.
In addition, the competence group for which I am responsible, medical devices, can rely on the watch engineering group (miniaturisation) or the surface engineering group (biocompatibility) or the embedded computer systems group (electronics), in order to offer the multidisciplinary approach that I mentioned before.
Why has the microtechnology and electronics orientation of the Microtechnology sector evolved specifically towards medical devices?
The school's management realized that medical devices were a strategic area of development. Numerous companies located on the Jura axis manufacture small medical devices or their components. In this way, the school better supports the local industrial fabric. Miniaturization is the cornerstone of our know-how. In the manufacture of microcomponents and medical devices, there are still many discoveries to be made (flexible electronics, encapsulation, new materials, microfluidics, resorbable materials to avoid a second shrinkage operation, etc.).
I think we need to listen even better to doctors and their needs before developing new technology. The doctor can really guide the engineer's thinking towards the finalization of the tool. The doctor knows what needs to be created, the engineer knows how to make it.
The vision of the microtechnology and electronics orientation over 10 years?
The vision of the future is to equip the cantons of the Jura arc within 10 years with an institution focused on medical devices, recognised for the quality of execution of its two fundamental missions:
- teaching ;
- applied research.
The engineers trained in this field at the HE-Arc will offer knowledge and skills of the highest level to local companies, contributing strongly to their good performance and growth. HE-Arc's research groups will contribute intensely to the technological advances and new product development of these companies, from start-ups to large international companies.