FUKUDA Sumire, 4th-year medical student and aspiring entrepreneur.

FUKUDA Sumire, a 4th-year medical student at Kobe University and a member of the university's Innovation Club, is an aspiring entrepreneur developing an AI-powered surgical support system for endovascular surgery. This fall, Fukuda led a team called FairMed to the semi-finals of an international competition in Australia, where 14 out of an original 25 teams presented their entrepreneurial ideas in the medical and health fields.

After graduating from the Graduate School of Science at Osaka Prefecture University (now Osaka Metropolitan University) in 2016, Fukuda joined a general chemical manufacturing company, where she spent four years on the research and development of medical devices. The turning point for her to reconsider studying medicine was when she observed a cerebral endovascular surgery during a visit to a conference, where witnessing an intracranial hemorrhage occurring during the procedure made her think about ways to reduce such complications.

However, only a physician can understand the subtleties of using surgical instruments. The person developing the instrument can only understand it through the words the doctor uses to explain it. Fukuda reflects on her experience in the manufacturing industry, saying, “If you are a researcher developing a car, you can just hop in and drive what you’re working on. But that's not something you can do in medicine. When I was working in manufacturing, I really wished I could get hands-on with the products and gain my own experience.”

Motivated by such thoughts, Fukuda decided to leave her job in 2020 and take the entrance examination for Kobe University’s School of Medicine. The following year, she entered the university as a second-year student.

Support from experts in the Innovation Club

Fukuda chose Kobe University because she felt it was a suitable place for her passion for research. It was also at the time when the Kobe University School of Medicine gained attention for its involvement in the development of Hinotori, Japan’s first domestically produced surgical support robot.

“When I joined this university I felt that it’s a place where you can tackle anything if you are determined.” And indeed, when Fukuda explained the endovascular surgical support system she aims to develop to Associate Professor KOHTA Masaaki, a neurosurgeon, he gladly agreed to accept Fukuda into his research lab.

Another major boost to the realization of her idea was the Innovation Club, which was established at the university in 2022. Although it is a club activity, faculty members with expertise serve as advisors and support entrepreneurship at the university. It also offers the opportunity to acquire practical knowledge, such as business procedures and fundraising, from active entrepreneurs. And so, a team of four from diverse departments and graduate programs came together in FairMed to turn Fukuda’s idea into a business by improving the plan and negotiating with external parties.

The surgical support system they are developing tracks the movement of surgical equipment in real-time on the image that the surgeon sees during cerebral endovascular surgery and provides warnings to prevent complications such as bleeding. It also features functionality that recommends the use of devices and surgical plans. While AI utilization in healthcare is advancing in the field of diagnostic aids, the treatment support applications that FairMed is pursuing are still limited. In a competition held within the Innovation Club this summer, where ten teams presented their business plans, FairMed won first place and received high praise from external judges.

“This system isn't just about reducing complications like bleeding, it’s also there to back up doctors who are still getting their feet wet. This means less stress for patients — no need for repeat surgeries or long hours of post-op care — and that’s a big plus in terms of enhancing the quality of their treatment.”

Fukuda says that through studying at medical school, she felt that there is a great need for developing medical devices.

The plan is to apply for regulatory approval domestically and internationally by 2024 and subsequently conduct clinical trials necessary for insurance coverage. Fukuda is also formulating a fundraising plan while consulting with experts who support the Innovation Club. She aims to commercialize the product around 2029 and expresses her aspirations, saying, “I want to get us to a place where we’re making a profit in the next decade.” The knowledge Fukuda gained while working for the manufacturing company, including product development, market expansion and collaboration with external personnel, benefit her in this process.

Wearing Two Hats: Physician and Entrepreneur

Upon graduating from medical school, Fukuda intends to first gain clinical experience, after which she aims to utilize her experience as a physician in the development of medical devices. “What I’ve taken away from med school is that there’s a whole lot of challenges on the front lines of healthcare, and even more need for developing medical devices than I had originally thought. I plan on diving deeper into the field and figuring out how I can meet those needs.” As the team name FairMed, which combines the words “fair” and “medical,” suggests, the goal is to ensure that everyone has access to quality medical care. The development of medical devices that assist physicians is one way to achieve this goal.

In the future, Fukuda also considers pursuing research at the graduate level. The Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine recently established the Department of Medical Device Engineering that combines medicine and engineering, which overlaps with her fields of interest. “If you can dream it, you can do it” is her favorite quote. At Kobe University, which she chose as her stage, Fukuda aims to pursue a dual path as a physician and entrepreneur, walking towards the realization of her dreams.


FUKUDA Sumire was born in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture in 1991. She graduated from the Faculty of Science at Osaka Prefecture University in 2014 and from the Graduate School of Science in 2016. Fukuda worked in the research and development department of Kaneka Corporation from 2016 to 2020 and enrolled in Kobe University’s School of Medicine in 2021. She lives in Kobe.


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