A doctor performs minimally invasive robotic surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System.
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Medicine is becoming an increasingly technical field. Robots are assisting surgeons in performing complicated operations, strides are being made in 3-D printing (which could revolutionize organ transplants), and artificial intelligence is adding new efficiencies to the healthcare industry. But it’s the surgical robotics industry that seems poised for a huge break.
Research has indicated that the global surgical robotics market could reach a staggering $91.5 billion by 2025. Here are a few of the companies at the forefront of this rapidly growing industry.
This Toronto-based company, founded in 2012, is best known for its BrightMatter™ surgical technology, which combines informatics, imaging, surgical planning, and surgical robots that feature advanced optics. Synaptive has received financial votes of confidence, too: in its most recent funding round, it received more than $900,000 from six anonymous sources. It also entered into a strategic partnership with private equity firm General Atlantic.
Commenting on the partnership, General Atlantic’s Alex Crisses said, “Synaptive marks the first investment by General Atlantic in the medical device sector, which speaks volumes to the attractive market opportunity we see in the healthcare technology industry.”
BrightMatter™ has been installed at top ranked facilities across the U.S., including Emory University Hospital, the Gates Vascular Institute, and Mount Sinai.
Creator of the da Vinci Surgical System, the most commonly known surgical robotics system, Intuitive Surgical raised $46 million in its IPO in 2000. Da Vinci was the first robotic surgical system cleared by the FDA for general laparoscopic surgery. The product features a magnified 3-D high-def vision system and tiny instruments that bend and rotate far more than the human hand is capable of doing. The surgeon is completely in control of the system at all times, so there’s no need to worry about having your gall bladder removed by a robot instead of a doctor.
However, in the past couple of years, Intuitive Surgical has gotten a serious competitor: Google and Johnson & Johnson have teamed up to “build a better robot.”
Intuitive’s biggest competitor was formed in December of 2015. It’s the offspring of a strategic partnership between Verily Life Sciences (formerly known as Google Life Sciences) and Ethicon, a medical device subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Verb is building a surgical robotics system that brings together the medical instrumentation technology developed by Ethicon and the “big data” and machine learning expertise of Google. The team’s goal has been to develop a digital surgical platform that will include robotics. The company claims its system will cost much less than Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci.
According to Market Research Engine, the major drivers of the global surgical robotics market include introduction of technologically advanced systems, an increasing frequency of neurological disorders, growth in healthcare spending, and higher dexterity along with cost efficiency. However, safety concerns, a shortage of trained surgeons, and regulatory hurdles could harm the industry.
Despite the potential downsides, the future is looking bright for the companies building platforms enabling surgeons to enhance their skills with robotic technology.