The WARN notices list layoffs involving 292 workers at Auris, 47 at Verb Surgical, and four at Ethicon Endo-Surgery. All of the jobs were based in Santa Clara County; the layoffs are effective April 30.
The job reductions are part of the restructuring and layoffs involving at least 1,000 J&J employees that MassDevice reporting uncovered on March 6. MassDevice has reported on more than 19,000 medtech workers let go across the industry since mid-2022. (Have a tip about layoffs at your company or within the industry? Let us know.)
In an interview in this week’s DeviceTalks Weekly podcast, Joe Mullings, CEO of The Mullings Group, a prominent medical device executive search firm, confirmed that he knew of several positions eliminated in the minimally invasive surgical robotics programs within the company.
“These were people who were very close friends of the firm, and they’re not kids,” Mullings said. “They’re adults who have put 20 to 30 years of their life into a project or into a company.”
Questions about Johnson & Johnson’s Ottava robot
The layoffs could raise even more questions about Ottava — which was supposed to be J&J’s bid to compete against Intuitive in the soft-tissue surgical robotics space. (Here are 16 companies active in robot-assisted surgery.) The medtech giant and its Ethicon surgical tools subsidiary have said little about Ottava for more than a year.
In a statement shared by a spokesperson today, the company said: “We continue to be excited about and committed to our Ottava program. We look forward to delivering a competitive soft tissue robotic solution. We expect to provide an update on our progress later this year.”
Fortis Advisors has an active lawsuit in Delaware on behalf of the Auris shareholders who were behind the Ottava technology and the previous Monarch robotic system that J&J presently has cleared for certain indications.
J&J acquired Auris in 2019 for $3.4 billion. The Fortis lawsuit alleges that the Auris team was subjected post-acquisition to a covert “bakeoff” with Verb Surgical, the joint venture that J&J had with Google sister company Verily. The internal competition diverted employees and resources, according to the lawsuit.
J&J has described the lawsuit as “wholly without merit.”
Despite the questions about Ottava, Monarch continues to advance. In February, J&J’s Ethicon announced the first robotic-assisted removal of kidney stones using the Monarch platform.
Meanwhile, in the ortho-robotic surgery space, Velys system procedures are in the thousands. J&J’s DePuy Synthes orthopedic device business boasts that Velys is a first-of-its-kind, table-mounted ortho surgery robot with an efficient design that integrates into any operating room.