Brainlab picks up Level Ex, maker of video games for surgeons

Digital surgery platform developer Brainlab is taking a leap into developing medical video games—designed not for patients, but for surgeons.

The German maker of planning, navigation and robotic tools for neurological and orthopedic procedures as well as hardware for radiation surgery has acquired Level Ex, a Chicago-based developer of software programs aimed at clinicians.

Level Ex’s portfolio includes smartphone apps that test skills in cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology and anesthesiology. This can include diagnosing an ailment and selecting the proper course of treatment before time runs out or performing virtual airway procedures. Completing the games can also grant continuing medical education credits.

Brainlab says it has already begun to integrate Level Ex’s digital work across its more tangible product portfolio. This includes its use as a virtual sales tool for the company’s X-ray patient positioning and monitoring offerings as well as connecting it with 3D surgical viewing software.

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“We began working with Level Ex in 2019 for several reasons,” said Brainlab President and CEO Stefan Vilsmeier. “They are the best at disseminating best practices through video games, and they are unrivaled in their level of ergonomic user interaction, gaming-industry-quality 3D graphics, precise physics models and game mechanics psychology.”

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The financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. Going forward, Brainlab said it plans to help Level Ex expand its team and move into global markets, including through additional partnerships with medical device companies, drugmakers and medical societies.

The developer also plans to release new games in dermatology, orthopedics and oncology over the next year. Additionally, Level Ex will maintain its brand and operate independently of Brainlab.

“Our mission is to advance the practice of medicine through play: unleashing video game technology and design to improve skill and accelerate the adoption curve of new techniques and technologies in healthcare,” said Sam Glassenberg, founder and CEO of Level Ex, which counts a user base of more than 600,000 medical professionals and students.

The 105-person company is also working with NASA to help build an astronaut medical training program through a grant from the Translational Research Institute for Space Health.