Since Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci system earned the FDA nod in 2000, the company has enjoyed a sizable head start in the minimally invasive robotic surgery field. Competition has been brewing for years, from players large and small, but 2018 could be the year the market finally sees a shake-up.
North Carolina’s TransEnterix scored an FDA nod for its Senhance system in October, triggering a 75% bump in its stock price. The device, a rare new entrant to the robotic abdominal surgery market, is designed to make it easier to perform laparoscopic surgery. It is cleared for colorectal and gynecological surgery and features haptic feedback, so the surgeon can “feel” the tissue that the robotic arm is touching.
“New choices [for laparoscopic surgery] are needed that enhance the senses, control and comfort of the surgeon, minimize the invasiveness of surgery for the patient and maximize value for the hospital,” said TransEnterix CEO Todd Pope at the time.
The increasing interest in robotic surgery is a natural consequence of the shift in patient care from inpatient medicine to outpatient medicine, and from invasive procedures to less invasive ones, said Andrew Schiff, managing partner at Aisling Capital, which invested in TransEnterix in 2009.
And just because Intuitive was first, doesn’t mean it’s getting complacent.
“We place high value on continuing to innovate and invest roughly 10 percent of our revenues into research and development,” said Myriam Curet, Intuitive’s chief medical and scientific officer, via email.
“Hospitals and surgeons in cost-sensitive countries have told us that offering a variety of systems, at an array of price points, and with flexible financing options, is important,” Curet said.
With its latest system, the da Vinci X, CE-marked and FDA-cleared this year, Intuitive now offers a lower-cost base model to break into the market in “cost-sensitive countries.”
TransEnterix now faces the challenge of stimulating uptake of its Senhance system in hospitals. But Schiff doesn’t think of it so much as competition as an expansion in the robotic surgery field.
“It strikes me that there is plenty of room, as surgery becomes less invasive, for a number of companies to be in the area,” Schiff said.
“I think that having other companies in the robotic surgery market just raises awareness, in the same way that Prozac was one of the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors,” he said.
So what can we expect from this expanding field?
Image Credit: Amirah Al Idrus/FierceBiotech