Jacques and Smirti Zaneveld

Smriti Zaneveld, Ph.D. ‘18

Jacques Zaneveld, Ph.D. ’15

Drs. Smriti and Jacques Zaneveld met and began their careers as Ph.D. students in the laboratory of Rui Chen, Ph.D., in the Human Genome Sequencing Center​ at Baylor College of Medicine, where they studied the genetics of congenital eye defects. Dr. Jacques Zaneveld focused on discovering likely genetic causes of disease through bioinformatic analysis of human genome sequencing data, while Dr. Smriti Zaneveld used CRISPR to introduce candidate mutations into mice to study their effects and developed retroviral gene therapies that treated these genetic diseases in mice. Their collective work has resulted in 26 peer-reviewed scientific articles with over 2,000 citations.

Concurrent with their Ph.D. work, Drs. Smriti and Jacques Zaneveld became deeply interested in pre-surgical planning. They brainstormed with Baylor physicians who perform some of the most complex surgeries in the world. Despite the availability of imaging technologies like magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography, these clinicians lacked a way to physically simulate different surgical approaches or test their plans before performing the actual operation. Just like practicing a piece of music, the Zanevelds hypothesized that surgical rehearsals had the potential to improve outcomes and reduce risk. They spent nights and weekends obsessing over a new concept – 3D printing exact copies of patients in lifelike materials so surgeons could practice complex surgeries ahead of time.

After developing the first prototype of Preoperative Surgical Rehearsal (Pre-Sure) technology in their kitchen, the Zanevelds collaborated with Dr. Richard Link, the Carlton-Smith Endowed Chair in Urologic Education at Baylor, to complete their first clinical trial of Pre-Sure technology. This work was published in 2017 – the same year they got married. The Zanevelds then founded Lazarus 3D, a startup company with the mission of enabling surgical perfection through Pre-Sure, which they pursued full-time following graduation in 2018.

In March 2020, Lazarus 3D’s team of ​three​​ ​ (at the time) faced a different problem: the immense need for PPE at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) to protect healthcare providers from COVID. As recent graduates, the Zanevelds borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from their friends and family, putting their futures on the line, and used their 3D printing and business acumen to provide >200,000 face shields and over 1.5 million masks to Baylor, CHI St. Luke’s Health and the TMC. They provided high-quality PPE faster and cheaper than standard suppliers. According to published research from Baylor, the use of Lazarus 3D’s face shields reduced COVID positive test rates for healthcare providers at Baylor St. Luke’s from 22.9% to 2.7% within one week of adoption, showing that the Zaneveld’s rapid action prevented infections and saved lives. 

As the COVID crisis wound down, the Zanevelds re-focused their efforts on their surgical rehearsal technology. In 2021, Pre-Sure received FDA clearance as a diagnostic medical device, making it the first and only FDA-cleared medical device that allows physicians to physically rehearse upcoming soft-tissue surgeries. Pre-Sure models cut and bleed, contain both soft and hard tissues, and include realistic tissue planes that recapitulate the feel of real tissue. Pre-Sure technology has been used in the care of patients at Texas Children’s Hospital, CHI St. Luke’s Health, the Cleveland Clinic, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Samaritan Health System and many other leading institutes. In 2022, Lazarus 3D received its first equity investment of $9 million, which ​is being used ​​to launch Pre-Sure across the country. The Zanevelds have shared a deep connection with Baylor throughout their journey, and they are honored to continue supporting the lifesaving mission of Baylor in the years to come.