Just Say ‘Yes’
Thomas Carroll, MD, is director of the Brigham and Women’s Voice Program and is on the Scientific Advisory Board of Sofregen Medical, which has developed Silk Voice, a product that uses silk protein for vocal fold augmentation and recently gained FDA clearance. He connected with the company through basic science work he was conducting with scientists at Tufts University’s biomechanical engineering department. He also worked with Sofregen on a catheter-based delivery system, on which he shares the patent. The device, still in development, is designed to allow physicians to deliver injectables to the vocal fold through the working channel of a flexible laryngoscope, allowing one surgeon to perform procedures that otherwise require two people.
Explore This IssueDecember 2019
ENTtoday: How do you pursue ideas without knowing the end goal ahead of time?
Dr. Carroll: I think everybody’s ultimate goal is to make something that will benefit patients and other physicians. My personal take on it is that I really don’t know what is going to become of an idea or a product until it gets further down the line, and usually the ultimate decision by a company to continue a project is financial. And I’ve tried to—at least I hope I’ve gotten smarter over the years—[be able to say], ‘That will be great for about 20 people, but it’s never going to be something that would sell.’ But you have to think like that, unfortunately.
I know that any good idea can be the launching pad for another good idea, etc., and I hope that I still can put some mental energy into even smaller projects, knowing that they may not come to fruition just from a financial and marketing standpoint, but it may give me some room to think in a different way about another approach or another product or another idea.
I think the principle is learning that even if you have a great idea as an inventor or physician–scientist, it’s got to make money for a company, or it’s got to become a company that’s successful and there has to be market for it. In otolaryngology, it’s got to be something that’s universal to a lot of people who don’t already have it or use it, and there [has to be] room in the particular space.
With the silk product, for example, there are already good injectables out there that I use every day. We just are hoping to produce something that checks a few more boxes for the physician–user as well as for the patient.