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Home > About BNE > Press Room > Life Sciences News > Interviews > Dr Guru

Buffalo Niagara Life Sciences Ambassador 

Dr. Khurshid A. Guru, Associate Professor of Urology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute & Director of the Roswell Park Center for Robotic Surgery

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In August 2004, Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) became the first facility in the Buffalo-Niagara region to offer state-of-the-art robotic surgical technology. In less than three years, the number of robotic operations for kidney, bladder, and prostate cancer at RPCI increased from 50 to 95% of such procedures. This minimally invasive surgical option, once offered to only urology patients, quickly became a viable, attractive option for many patients with gynecologic, thoracic and gastrointestinal cancers and some non-cancerous conditions. Today, RPCI is a Center of Excellence for robot-assisted surgery.  RPCI surgeons have performed more than 1,500 robot-assisted surgeries. Surgical teams from around the globe come to Buffalo to develop and improve their skills under the guidance of RPCI’s robotic surgery experts. RPCI is the first center in the world to create a “video-based textbook” on robotic surgery.

Dr. Khurshid A. Guru, Associate Professor in the Department of Urology at RPCI and Director of the Roswell Park Center for Robotic Surgery, was recruited in 2005. Dr. Guru completed a fellowship in robot-assisted surgery under Dr. Mani Menon, considered the “father of robotic surgery,” at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and has pioneered advanced robot-assisted surgical techniques. Dr. Guru, along with Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas, PhD, professor of mechanical engineering at the University at Buffalo, founded the spin-off company Simulated Surgical Systems LLC (SSS).

In 2007, Dr. Guru and his family started a non profit foundation that works in the northern Himalayan region of the Indian subcontinent – Kashmir. Working in collaboration with the Breast Cancer Center and Department of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at Roswell Park, The Guru Foundation brings medical care, education and public-health-related services to the Kashmiri people. Drs. Stephen Edge and Deborah Erwin from RPCI have helped to establish a women’s health initiative there that encourages breast cancer awareness and provides education about things like breast self-examination and water-related hygiene – as well as eye care, through the Vision for All program. Dr. Samina Raja, Associate Professor in of the UB School of Architecture and Planning, whose expertise in urban planning is also helping to build a foundation for better public health in the region. The Guru Foundation also collaborates with Randforce Associates at the UB Technology Incubator. Dr. Michael Frisch, UB Professor of History and American Studies, and his team are developing an oral history program for Kashmir. This searchable audio database will be part of a web-based archive that will house more than 500 out-of-print books, manuscripts, documents and paintings about this mountainous region.

Q. What Life Sciences organizations, events, or campaigns do you personally participate in?
One of my favorite professional organizations that I participate actively in is the European Robotic Urology Symposium. At their meetings and programs, I hear about current trends and the future prospects of robot-assisted surgery from the viewpoint of Europeans, so I get new ideas. And, as a participating faculty member, my connection to ERUS has also opened up opportunities for me to be involved in trainings and demonstrations in robot-assisted surgery across Europe.

Q. What do you think are Buffalo Niagara’s greatest strengths & assets as they relate to the Life Sciences industry?
In my opinion, the greatest strength lies in the vision laid by the leadership of Roswell Park and the other member organizations of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in prioritizing intellectual property and concept development, and providing the seed resources to help these assets grow. The future of the United States in the global market centers on its development and protection of intellectual property.

Q. How is robotic surgery changing the way we treat cancer and how is Roswell Park leading this shift?
Robotic surgery is making it possible for surgeons to offer excellent outcomes through a safe approach – replacing procedures that were more invasive and involved a longer recovery. It is critical to ensure that robotic surgeries are performed by an expert surgeon who has spent time in mastering the human/machine interface. Roswell Park has provided a platform for this type of high-impact training, developing one of the first robotic training simulators anywhere, and also is a center for training surgeons from across the world – and they then take those skills into operating rooms worldwide. 
So Roswell really is making a difference for individual patients and helping to shape the still-emerging field of robot-assisted surgery, internationally.

Q. What collaboration work, if any do you or the Robotic Surgery Center participate in?
When my partner, Kesh, and I were putting together the venture that became Simulated Surgical Systems, UB STOR (the Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach at the University at Buffalo) was a tremendous help in terms of helping us navigate all the entrepreneurial options of commercialization, of making that transition from scientists to entrepreneurs. Our research and development would not have been possible without partnership between us and the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences' Virtual Reality Lab, run under the direction of Professor Kesavadas. It was the lead taken by the local business community and interest from executives at Moog Inc. in providing valuable input and feedback that made a smaller spinoff venture like ours take flight, and really be in a position to compete with other businesses across the globe.

The Roswell Park Center for Robotic Surgery has developed an extensive simulation-based training program for safe robotic skill-learning that helps surgeons develop competency with the tools and procedures before they operate on a patient. This would never have been possible without the support and participation of the John R. Oishei, Margaret L. Wendt, James H. Cummings and Roswell Park Alliance foundations. Once the basis for such a center was established, active engagement with the UB School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, particularly the Departments of Surgery, Urology and Gynecology-Obstetrics, helped Roswell Park put these sophisticated, complex skills in the hands of undergraduate and postgraduate trainees graduating from Buffalo medical institutions.

Q. What is your outlook for the growth of the Life Sciences industry, especially robotic surgery, in Buffalo Niagara over the next 5-10 years?
A. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has seen dramatic growth over the last decade, and we’re adding member institutions and new facilities all the time. So I think it’s clear that Roswell and other BNMC organizations are going to keep growing and building, and contributing major research and clinical advances to healthcare along the way.

On the robotics front, as we continue to lead the development of new procedures for robot-assisted surgery, helping surgeons across the globe to safely learn these skills via our surgical team at Roswell Park and our innovative collaboration with the UB School of Engineering, the Robotic Surgery Center and SSS are going to keep developing mutually beneficial partnerships with businesses all over the world.