A next-generation surgical robotic system has been developed in Cambridge, UK. It will be used on NHS patients for the first time in 2019.
The Versius robot seen here was designed and built by CMR Surgical, formed in 2014, whose five founders brought with them global experience across the diverse disciplines of surgery, medical device development, start-ups and commercialisation. In June 2018, the company announced a record-breaking financing round that raised $100m in total, Europe’s largest private Series B medical device funding raise.
CMR’s stated aim is “to make minimal access surgery available to all”, by creating “a paradigm shift in robotic-assisted surgery”. Minimal access surgery (sometimes known as keyhole or minimally invasive surgery) is an alternative to open surgery that was first pioneered around 40 years ago. For patients and healthcare providers alike, the benefits are numerous and compelling – reduced trauma, faster recovery and improved clinical outcomes. For example, the risk of infection from a robotically assisted hysterectomy is reduced by almost a factor of three compared with open surgery (from 6.5% to 2.2%).
There are an estimated six million open surgery procedures each year that could be performed using minimal access surgery. CMR Surgical believes that robotics opens up the potential for millions more people to benefit from laparoscopic surgery.
The Versius machine is a rival to the American da Vinci system. CMR expects to introduce their new robotic system to hospitals within the next six months, beginning in the UK and Europe, then with international expansion shortly afterwards. The $4bn global market for surgical robots is predicted to increase five-fold to reach $20bn by 2024.
“Surgeons will remain in control, but as we develop the human-robot interface there may be simple parts of an operation, such as suturing or closing a wound that may be automated,” said Dr Hachach-Haram, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons’ Commission on the Future of Surgery.