A team player: Interview with BEEAs winner Sebastien Cuvelier Mussalian

Written by: Paul Fanning | Published:

A double winner at this year's BEEAs, Sebastien Cuvelier Mussalian is a man whose work is nothing if not impressive. Paul Fanning reports.

Awards and accolades may not always be the best way to judge an individual's merits, but sometimes people receive so many that it becomes impossible to ignore. Sebastien Cuvelier Mussalian and Team Consulting (for which he has worked as a senior engineering consultant for the last five years) are cases in point.

At 2013's British Engineering Excellence Awards, Mussalien won both Design Engineer of the Year (the only unanimous winner in this category the BEEAs has ever had) and the Grand Prix. This was in large part for his work as lead engineer on the OrganOx perfusion system, which keeps donor human livers 'alive' before being transplanted – a project that had already won Team Consulting 'Consultancy of the Year' at the previous year's BEEAs.

Add to these a clutch of other awards received by the team for this highly innovative and life-saving project and it becomes clear we are dealing with something very special indeed.

So what has made Mussalian stand out to this extent? His nominator for the BEEAs put it thus: "For more than five years at Team Consulting, Sebastien has built an international reputation for the design, development and industrialisation of innovative, robust and capable medical devices.

"He is an accomplished engineer and system architect, providing the technical drive of high value product development projects in the highly regulated medical device industry. He has experience in all stages of the product development lifecycle, working with start ups as well as large organisations."

As well as being lead engineer for the OrganOx perfusion system, Mussalien has also been:
• System architect for a closed loop Class III safety critical system which continually monitors the subject's physiological parameters and reaction to the drug intervention during clinical trials.
• Project lead for the concept development of an innovative, low-cost lab-on-a-chip bio sensor that detects serious or life threatening intravenous drug errors before they harm patients.
• Electrical engineer for the development of an in vivo intracellular injection needle system for the injection of a Hepatitis C DNA vaccine into muscle tissue, and
• Software lead for the development of a medical smartphone app measuring the respiratory rate of patient with sleep apnoea.

Referring to these different roles, he says: "The beauty of working in the medical device industry is the feeling of making a difference in the life of people through good design, rigorous engineering and creative thinking. Designing safety-critical medical systems, outside the obvious regulatory challenges, is a mind-set of its own. I cannot sleep at night until I know that our devices perform at 100% of their specifications."

Originally from France, Cuvelier Mussalian has spent five years at Team, having previously acquired a degree in this country. During his time with Team Consulting, he has successfully managed projects and held technical lead roles in the development of complex medical systems. Sébastien's "Joie de vivre" comes from helping clients taking a concept or an idea, and turning it into a creative robust device that is ready for market.

Budgetary considerations do play a role, of course. Mussalian says: "Don't forget most clients come with a fixed budget and that will sometimes influence the architecture. Sometimes, there's no point in including an embedded GUI, so simplify the system and make it cheaper to manufacture."

Mussalian sums up the challenge of Organox. "We took a complex problemthat hadn't been solved and applied scientific, medical and engineering knowledge to create a simple solution – it works from just three buttons. But there's a lot of processing going on behind the scenes."

A strong project and technical leader, he challenges and encourages his peers and team members to improve themselves. He has developed or updated a number of design approaches and processes within Team Consulting, including a 'leaner' method of equivalence testing for the US FDA 510(k) process.

Cuvelier Mussalian has also worked on a variety of community projects with schoolchildren and young engineers; not only to inspire them to become engineers and scientists, but also to give them the skills to think through challenges. Alongside his participation in the 'Engineers Without Borders' programme, Cuvelier Mussalian has also taken part in a Science Week at a local primary school, where he led a Year 5/6 class in solving the challenge of cleaning a litre of 'dirty' water; something he said was, "probably the hardest I've ever had to work".

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