About 20 years ago, a medical device startup called Intuitive Surgical debuted the da Vinci robot and changed surgical practices in operating rooms across the United States.
The da Vinci ushered in the first age of robotic-assisted surgical procedures with a promise of greater accuracy and quicker recovery times for patients undergoing certain laparoscopic surgeries.
For a time, it was largely alone in the market. It has skyrocketed in value since 2000, when the stock first debuted on public markets. From the $46 million that the company initially raised in its public offering to now, with a market capitalization of nearly $63 billion, Intuitive has been at the forefront of robotic-assisted surgeries, but now a new crop of startups is emerging to challenge the company’s dominance.
Backed by hundreds of millions in venture capital dollars, new businesses are coming to refashion operating rooms again — this time using new visualization and display technologies like virtual and augmented reality, and a new class of operating robots. Their vision is to drive down the cost and improve the quality of surgical procedures through automation and robotic equipment.
“There were 900,000 surgeries done using surgical robotics out of a total of 313 million surgical procedures,” globally, says Dror Berman, a managing director of Innovation Endeavors.
Berman is an investor in Vicarious Surgical, a new robotics company that plans to not only improve the cost and efficiency of surgical procedures, but enable them to be performed remotely so the best surgeons can be found to perform operations no matter where in the world they are.
“Robotics and automation present multiple opportunities to improve current processes, from providing scientists the opportunity to vastly increase experimental throughput, to allowing people with disabilities to regain use of their limbs,” Berman wrote in a blog post announcing his firm’s initial investment in Vicarious.
The $3.4 billion acquisition of Auris Health by Johnson & Johnson shows just how lucrative the market for new surgical robotics can be.
That company, founded by one of the progenitors of the surgical robotics industry, Fred Moll, is the first to offer serious competition to Intuitive Surgical’s technological advantage — no wonder, considering Dr. Moll also founded Intuitive Surgical.
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