Michael Fehlings, MD, PhD, FRCSC, FACS, Appointed to Key Role in New AO Innovation and Translation Centers

Dr. Fehlings discusses exciting changes in AO research and the part he will play within the AO ITC

11 June 2021

Michael Fehlings, MD, PhD, FRCSC, FACS is a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto, and has ha the great honor of recently assuming a new and exciting position in the AO Foundation: chair of the Clinical Science Advisory Commission, a key role in the newly created AO Innovation and Translation Centers (AO ITC).

We sat down over Zoom to speak with him about the AO ITC and his new role.

What is the AO ITC?

The AO ITC brings together a constellation of areas related to innovation, translation, and the operations and science of undertaking clinical research—all under one umbrella. This includes well-established entities and some other areas that may not be as apparent, including the famous technical commission, now the AO TC.

These groups have been a critical area in the AO, involving, essentially, the translation of surgeons’ ideas into clinical reality, often in the form of implants. In a sense, this really goes to the essence of the AO. Of course, innovation now is going into new areas, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and so on.

These entities are critical aspects of how the research is ran, but also: where should the innovations be going forward? An example of this is having a handle on how we're dealing with big data—technical innovations, including the use of virtual monitoring, which will make clinical trials more efficient and reduce costs.

There are other elements to innovation and translation within the AO. AO has development incubators that partner with small startups and with surgeons and scientists to take ideas and bring them into clinical reality, with AO providing investment funds and acting as an incubator.

Previously, all of this was going on, but it wasn't integrated together. The exciting aspect of this is now to integrate all of this amazing innovation and translation under one entity.

What will you be doing?

In terms of my own role in this, I provide strategic advice around the undertaking of clinical studies and clinical science for the entire AO ITC. I also sit on the executive board of the AO TC, which has a critical partnership with our industrial partner, DePuy Synthes, and is where I interface with other leadership in the ITC to set the strategic directions of where some of the technical innovations will occur.

The honor that I have in this role is to provide strategic advice in terms of where this is going forward. It's very cool. We actually had our inaugural meeting a few days ago, so this is hot off the press, as it were, and with luck we will have our first face-to-face meeting at the Davos courses this year in December. 

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