Intuitive is best known for its da Vinci surgical robotics system, but there is buzz around its Ion system with its fully articulating catheter making its way through the lungs for cancer biopsy.
Watch out for the Ion doing even more down the road.
CEO Gary Guthart announced during Intuitive’s Q3 earnings call yesterday evening that the company has obtained German regulatory approval for a clinical study of Ion ablation technology. “We know that Ion can navigate in deep into the lung. We know that surgeons and interventional pulmonologists want to treat tissue there. They want to be able to engage with it one way or another,” Guthart said during the call, transcribed by The Motley Fool.
During a keynote interview today at DeviceTalks West in Santa Clara, California, Guthart said there could be even further opportunities for the technology down the road: “It opens up opportunities for tubular structures outside the lung as well. I think over time that opportunity will grow.”
What Ion presently doesThe FDA cleared the Ion system in 2019 as a robotic-assisted, catheter-based platform meant to enable minimally invasive biopsy deep within the lung. Fiber optic shape sensor technology along the catheter’s length provides its precise location and shape information throughout the procedure.
Ion has experienced increases in installs, procedures performed and annualized system utilization. In Q3, Ion placements grew to 50 — up from 28 this time last year and 41 in the previous quarter. Total procedures more than tripled to roughly 6,400. The system is currently under EU MDR review, and the company submitted it in China.
The future of Intuitive and robotic surgery
Even with the promise around Ion, Intuitive sees millions of dollars worth of untapped opportunity for the minimally invasive surgery provided by its da Vinci robots, Guthart said at DeviceTalks West.
Guthart, though, thinks the robotic surgery is just getting started.
“I think this idea of computer-assisted surgery is still really nascent,” he said. He latter added: “I think there are decades worth of additional opportunity.”
In the same way that people are starting to simply describe electric cars as cars, Guthart thinks robotic surgery will become standard. He said Intuitive already views itself as a medtech company versus a robotic surgery company.
“I think it will be built into healthcare. It will be so ubiquitous, it will not be commented upon. … I think there will be a vibrant ecosystem of entrepreneurs, innovators and consolidators.”