Family Dinner Recap: Alexei Mlodinow of Surgical Innovation Associates

Event Recaps
Adrian Ayala-Perez
Feb 1, 2023
graphic featuring alexei

On Tuesday, January 24th, guest speaker Alexei Mlodinow, Kellogg ’16 & Feinberg ’20, spoke at The Garage’s weekly Family Dinner. He is the founding CEO of Surgical Innovation Associates (SIA), building it over 5 years into a high-growth, global commercial organization with ~$20M in equity funding, and $2M from the NIH. Since he stepped down in 2021 to pursue his passion for clinical medicine as a Northwestern plastic surgery resident, he has remained active on the board and as an advisor on strategic, commercial, clinical, and scientific matters. He led the process that culminated in SIA’s recent acquisition by Integra LifeSciences for up to $140 million.

In 2012, Alexei began his medical journey with breast reconstruction research with Dr. John Kim. His studies focused partially on clinical outcomes when using extracted skin from one individual to assist in breast reconstruction surgery for another. This proves challenging because of supply chain issues, cost, and increased infections for women already undergoing breast cancer treatment pathways. Alexei later enrolled at The Kellogg School of Management in 2015, where he worked on a project under Betsy Ziegler’s guidance regarding a surgical mesh for tissue repair that had been patented by Dr. Kim. Noting the potential to change current breast reconstruction industry standards, he expanded this project into a startup called Surgical Innovation Associates, with co-founders Dr. Kim and Todd Cruikshank. Most notably, they leveraged multiple Northwestern resources like The Garage, and competed in VentureCat2016 – taking home the Grand Prize in that year.

Although his company found great success over the years, Alexei was eager to recount the failures he experienced during his journey. The first being unsuccessful pitch competition performances that ended up preparing him for future investor conversations. Another instance he shared came after the first surgical mesh prototype was created – despite the fact that in theory, the mesh should have been able to withstand hundreds of pounds of pressure, it crumbled in his hands – leaving him to reconsider if this was a viable path. Still, SIA persevered through the prototyping process until they had the product they originally envisioned, and more.

By the summer of 2016, SIA began gaining traction among plastic surgeons, investors, and other interested stakeholders, leaving Alexei with a dilemma: do I finish medical school, or go all-in on my growing business? He chose the latter, and his team raised a total of ~$20 million in equity funding over the next 6 years. With new growth comes interest from larger companies, and SIA was officially acquired by Integra LifeSciences Holding Corporation for $140 million in December of 2022. Alexei fought to make the transition as seamless as possible to ensure the positive work environment his leadership had fostered over the years remained intact. Now, Alexei remains a consultant to Integra LifeSciences and he continues surgical residency.

This Family Dinner, PrOATein, a startup creating ready-to-go overnight oats that provide a nutrient-filled, satiating, easy breakfast option for people on the go, gave samples of their product to those in attendance! The PrOATein team is currently rebranding, and they surveyed attendees for a new company name – receiving multiple ideas to propel them through this process.

About the Author

Adrian Ayala-Perez ‘26 is a Social Policy & Data Science major from Miami, FL. He is a student aide at The Garage, tasked with managing different administrative, marketing, and operations projects. His favorite thing about The Garage is that students are encou