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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

J&J, Medtronic, Intuitive and Zimmer talk robotic surgery

Health Industry Hub | January 20, 2021 |

MedTech News: The MedTechs Medtronic, Intuitive Surgical, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Zimmer Biomet highlighted their plans in the increasingly competitive robotic surgery sector at this week’s J.P. Morgan healthcare conference.

The market for surgical robots is expected to grow from USD 6.7 billion in 2020 to USD 11.8 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 12.1%.

Australia is home to 83 Intuitive Surgical Da Vinci robots with opportunities to expand this market with the introduction of new surgical robots from Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson. Penetration of robotic surgery in Australia is approximately 2% of all available surgery. In the US, that number is closer to 10%.

Intuitive Surgical globally exceeded 2020 revenue predictions despite procedure decline amid the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic late in the fourth quarter. The company’s growth and sales beat came from system placements.

CEO Gary Guthart said the fourth quarter results benefited from “some budget flushing at the end of the year.” Guthart said the spending late in 2020 could translate into a tougher 2021 than expected but overall the CEO argued the fact that hospitals are still buying systems among competing priorities as a good sign.

The CEO expects procedures to pick up once the pandemic is under control and Intuitive to be well-positioned when it does.

Zimmer is among the companies seeking expansion in the robotic surgery market. CEO Bryan Hanson said the fourth quarter was Zimmer’s best yet for Rosa robotic knee surgery system placements, adding that the pipeline is as strong as it has ever been.

Zimmer aims to expand the market for its robotic surgery system in 2021 by introducing its partial knee application. Zimmer is involved in more than 50% of partial knees done globally making the application a huge opportunity for the company.  

Medtronic expects its robotic program to reach major milestones in the coming months. CEO Geoff Martha said that the soft tissue robotic team plans to make a CE mark submission and U.S. investigational device exemption filing in March, moving Medtronic closer to commercialisation.

“Our unique offering is designed to increase access to robotics by going after the barriers that have limited robotic surgery adoption to-date, namely cost and utilisation challenges,” Martha said.  

Medtronic’s soft tissue system will slot into a robotic surgery portfolio featuring the spine technology the medtech major acquired in its 2018 takeover of Mazor Robotics. Last year, Medtronic added to its spine technologies with the acquisition of Medicrea. Medtronic is looking to build a portfolio of products such as AI-driven planning and personalised implants around its robots. 

The use of robotics at Medtronic extends beyond surgical theaters. Martha said robotics is becoming a “core technology” at Medtronic that is being applied across the business. At manufacturing plants, Medtronic is using the technology to implement wafer-scale fabrication techniques. According to Martha, Medtronic is the first company to apply the techniques to medtech.

In doing so, Martha said Medtronic is reducing both the cost and size of its devices. Martha cited the LINQ II insertable cardiac monitor as being among the first Medtronic devices to benefit from the techniques. Continuous glucose sensors are next on the list of medical devices Medtronic wants to manufacture using wafer-scale fabrication techniques. 

Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) multi-front robotic surgery strategy has hit setbacks in recent months due to regulatory delays. However, the Monarch robotic lung cancer system has gained a foothold since being cleared by FDA in 2018 and J&J remains committed to a long-term growth opportunity.

J&J CEO Alex Gorsky said his team sees robotic surgery as something that will shape the business for the next decade. On that timeline, the delays may be inconsequential but setbacks provide opportunity for rivals to enter markets ahead of J&J or entrench their existing commercial positions.

The company also spoke on a number of robotics offerings, including its six-armed Ottava system that is meant to compete with Intuitive’s da Vinici robot and Medtronic’s forthcoming soft-tissue robot Hugo. The company expects Ottava to enter first-in-human trials in the second half of 2022.


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