When robotics is mentioned in the surgical space, the first thing anyone thinks of is the Da Vinci. Intuitive Surgical's pioneering robotic technology allows surgeons to operate using smaller incisions than ever before, with the robotic arms able to rotate far further than the human wrist.
As their popularity has grown, we’ve seen a number of other companies attempt to get involved in the action. As a specialist in robotics, I’ve highlighted 5 that I’m coming across regularly who are looking to “disrupt the disruption” as it were.
Whilst Intuitive and the Da Vinci have been a huge name in Surgical Robotics since they gained FDA approval in 2000, there are now a number of other companies looking to challenge their supremacy in the robotics arena.
Previously known as Cambridge Medical Robotics, this UK based business are going toe to toe with Intuitive as their Versius product operates in the laparoscopic space – an area Da Vinci has historically dominated.
CMR claim that their Versius platform reduces the physical and mental burden of demanding laparoscopy procedures. Versius also claims to be more compact and ergonomic than it's competitors. They hope that these combined factors will help surgeons combat the major problem of repetitive strain injury as well as neck and back problems.
Versius has arms that can operate individually from their own base, compared to the Da Vinci’s which are all attached together. As a result of this, the robot can be used in any OR so there doesn’t need to be a specific design.
CMR’s tech is also versatile – by being well suited to gynaecology, urology, colorectal and general surgery they hope that they’re at the beginning of an extremely exciting journey.
Medrobotics are a US based multi award winning robotic surgery business, with a product that is turning heads in the medical space.
Their ‘Flex’ system gives physicians the ability to access anatomical locations that were previously difficult or impossible to reach in a minimally invasive procedure. Their wrist-like fixings offer a great deal more flexibility (hence the name) than traditional straight surgical tools.
Combining this with their magnified HD visualisation tool also allows surgeons to see more when carrying out procedures, essentially as they ‘pilot’ their 3mm articulating instruments throughout the body.
Medrobotics products are currently approved to gain access via the mouth or anus to patients, but the future could see them gaining access to the body through other natural orifices, or indeed through small incisions in the abdomen. This would dramatically expand the amount of surgeries and applications Flex could be used for.
For those familiar with Intuitive, the name Fred Moll should ring a few bells. He was a co-founder of Intuitive Surgical as well as 2 other publicly traded healthcare businesses, and now heads up Auris Health.
Having already received over $500M in investor funding, there are a lot of people backing Moll’s vision with Auris’ ‘Monarch’ product.
Monarch has recently received FDA approval, and utilises flexible robotics to ‘enable new possibilities in endoscopy’. This exciting product is aiming to tackle lung cancer through combining the latest technology, sensing and data science whilst preserving the integrity of the human body through being as un-invasive as possible.
Another interesting feature of Auris’ product is their controller, whose 'game console-like' shape may enable physicians to adopt the technology at a quicker rate.
Founded in 2006, TransEnterix are a publicly traded medical robotics company with an aim to improve minimally invasive surgery.
Their Senhance robotics system offers another solution for laparoscopy, which has some really interesting features. One of these is haptic force feedback, i.e. controls that are sensitive to pressure from the physician, and eye-sensitive camera control – so when the surgeon leans toward the screen, the camera moves toward the patient.
By giving the physician a more immersive experience, the Senhance system is taking a different approach to the other companies we’ve already discussed. 2018 could be a vital year for the company.
Synaptive’s Modus V is a fully-automated, hands-free digital microscope which is used to support a variety of surgical approaches and workflows.
They represent a supplementary tool for surgeons to use which will complement the existing resources in the OR. A crucial part of Synaptive’s strategy is to be “future proof”. As our capacity to collect data in surgery and know more about the procedures we’re conducting improves, Synaptive are ready. They’ve designed their tech with sophisticated software updates in mind, allowing them to take advantage of future advances in data capture and analysis.
These 5 companies may be significantly younger than Intuitive, but all look to have an extremely bright future. Do you agree with my choices? Is there anyone I’ve missed? Let me know by commenting below!