Mark Toland, the former CEO of Corindus Vascular Robotics, believes the next big opportunity for surgical robotics is actually very small.
Toland, who sold the telesurgery robotics company to Siemens in 2019 for $1.1 billion, is now the CEO of Medical Microinstruments S.p.A. (MMI), an Italian company that has developed a surgical robotic system capable of performing microsurgery on capillaries, small vessels and other parts of the body existing robots – and maybe even surgeons – can’t reach.
“You see robotics companies that are trying to be the next Intuitive surgical or go after the laparoscopic surgery play,” Toland says. The objective “of this company is, `I want to create a field that doesn’t even exist today.’”
Founded in 2015 near Pisa, MMI in 2019 secured a CE-Mark for its Symani Surgical System to be used in open microsurgical procedures. The system already has been used in four surgical procedures in Florence, Italy including three post-traumatic lower limb reconstructions as well as a post-oncological reconstruction of the pharynx.
In an interview with the DeviceTalks Weekly Podcast to be published on Friday, Toland explains how MMI’s NanoWrist microinstruments offer better precision and range of movement than other robotic systems.
Toland says Symanni’s system can scale down a surgeons movement 20 times, making smaller, more precise movements possible. MMI’s NanoWrist design also allows for seven degrees of freedom, acting more like a surgeon’s own wrist. “The current robots on the market today have between three to five degrees of freedom,” Toland said.
Toland says the increased abilities of the robots could enable Symanni to do “things we’ve never been able to do in healthcare before.”
The company’s immediate plans center around collecting data on a limited rollout in Europe. Then, it could be in position to apply for FDA approval in 2021.
In a press release, MMI Chairman Andrew Cleeland, the one-time CEO of innovative start-ups Ardian and Twelve, pointed to Toland’s experience in the robotics field as boon for the company. “We look forward to empowering surgeons around the world with the most advanced technology that will make highly complex procedures more reproducible and new procedures possible,” he stated.
In 2020, MMI signed a financing agreement with the EU providing it up to €15 million ($17.74 million) to be deployed over the coming years to support its long-term financial strategy. MMI previously announced raising a €20 million Series A in 2018 from Andera Partners, Panakes Partners, Fountain Healthcare Partners and Sambatech.
Founders of the company include Giuseppe Prisco, PhD, the previous CEO and a former managing principal and engineer at Intuitive Surgical, Massimiliano Simi, PhD, investor of MMI’s NanoWrist articulated microinstruments, and Hannah Teichmann, PhD., now vice president of clinical development who is leading the effort to validate the surgical system.
In addition to his role at MMI, Toland remains involved in the venture fund, BioStar Capital. To hear his wide thoughts on the future or robotics as well as his plans at BioStar, susbcribe to the DeviceTalks Weekly Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast platforms.