Nothing Gross About It: Mopec Innovates Autopsy Stations
Back in the early aughts, I never missed an episode of the HBO series “Six Feet Under,” which followed the trials and travails of a funeral home-owning California family. I tuned in for the morbid storylines and superior acting, but there was also a fair amount of the show dedicated to the fascinating ins and outs of the funeral business. The characters on “Six Feet Under,” like many other families who had been in the mortuary business for generations, at times struggled to adapt to new burial and grossing technology.
High-tech grossing stations, it turns out, are the primary focus of Mopec, an Oak Park, MI-based company at the forefront of autopsy and mortuary innovation. The term “grossing” refers to tissue dissection, whether it’s done post-mortem or during surgery when tissue is removed, for instance, to evaluate a tumor. In essence, a grossing station in a hospital is used to dissect tissue removed from the body.
Mopec has developed the Mopec MB800, what it calls the industry’s first touch screen grossing station of its kind. Meant for use in pathology, anatomy, mortuary, and necropsy procedures, the station’s interactive display monitors the levels of formaldehyde solution and bio waste, filter usage duration, and ventilation performance. The station’s software, which was developed in-house, can be updated remotely and the MB800 can link to other grossing stations via local area network (LAN), making it easier to collect and share data in real time.
The MB800 also has two docking areas for computers or tablets and an optional camera-imaging canopy designed to be compatible with the imaging systems typically used in the industry. The canopy keeps the camera secure while focus and zoom controls are remotely operated, with dedicated USB ports for data transfer, recording, and syncing, said Mopec CEO Jane VanDusen.
“In the past, people would buy cameras and mount them on the grossing station, which is inefficient and unclean,” VanDusen said. “Our station has LED lights to enhance imaging, and we’re working to integrate cameras into it down the line. We’ve been approached by imaging companies who want to embed their products right into our station.”
VanDusen calls the MB800’s touch screen “truly innovative”—a patent is pending—and said it’s different from other grossing stations on the market because it allows pathologists to use the hands-free sink and control lighting, air flow, and other features without removing their gloves. “You can monitor formalin in one glance, kind of like you would check how much gas is left in your car’s gas tank,” she said, referring to the solution used to preserve biological specimens.
Mopec, founded in 1992, makes a range of mortuary and pathology products and counts the Mayo Clinic, Duke Medical Center, and the Kaiser Health System among its customers. It has produced other grossing stations in the past, but none with this level of technology, VanDusen said. She joined Mopec in 2004 after working in the automotive industry.
Mopec, which has 70 employees, is owned by Grand Rapids, MI-based private equity firm Blackford Capital after a 2014 acquisition reported to be worth eight figures. It’s not unusual for private equity firms to push the companies they acquire to make changes or develop technology that can scale operations, and that might explain the timing of the MB800’s launch.
VanDusen said the company’s 2016 goals for the MB800 include significantly increasing sales, working with customers to make product improvements, and customizing equipment for clients with unique needs. She estimates the U.S. grossing station market to be worth $50 million per year, and said Mopec hopes to capture about 30 percent of that market.
“I’m proud of this innovation, and we want to keep growing in metro Detroit,” VanDusen added.