Robot-assisted surgery helps physicians operate with more precision, control and flexibility than is often possible with traditional methods, as defined by the Mayo Clinic. Robotic surgery is often associated with minimally invasive procedures, which offer a shorter recovery time, lesser chance of complications and less scarring, pain and blood loss.
MedTech startup Virtual Incision is looking to bring the benefits of minimally invasive procedures to more people.
Founded in 2006, the company started as a research group at the University of Nebraska, as reported by Venture Beat. However, in 2010 it raised $2 million in Series A funding to work on the MIRA surgical robotic platform.
Standing for “miniaturized in vivo robotic assistant,” MIRA is designed to help surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures with full robotic capabilities—with a device weighing only two pounds (slightly less than one kilogram). MIRA does not need the space or infrastructure that traditional robotic systems need and can be transported from room to room in any hospital or medical environment.
“We designed the MIRA Surgical Robotic Platform with the fundamental understanding that minimally invasive procedures offer tremendous benefits to patients,” Virtual Incision president and CEO John Murphy said in a statement. “We believe our portable and affordable abdominal robot has the potential to bring these benefits to many more patients.”
The company also has already filed for Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) approval with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). An IDE approval will let the company carry out confirmatory clinical studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the MIRA platform, supporting the robot’s regulatory pathway to FDA approval.
“The planned IDE clinical study of MIRA is the critical next step for the company,” Murphy said.
At the moment, the robot will be used to perform colon resection surgeries. According to the company, colorectal and lower gastrointestinal procedures are some of the most common surgical procedures in the US, with over 400,000 colon resection procedures performed each year. Colectomies are the most standard technique to treat patients with severe conditions, but they often involve an invasive open surgery, several weeks of recovering and increased risks of infections and other concerns.
Virtual Incision believes that minimally invasive colectomies would offer much room for improvement in this area, and the use of mini surgical robots can make such procedures available to more patients.
“Demand for minimally invasive surgeries continues to increase, and we are enthusiastic about the promise of the MIRA platform to meet this demand,” said Virtual Incision co-founder and chief medical officer Dmitry Oleynikov. “We are focused on expanding access to minimally invasive robotic procedures and delivering this innovation to the many centers where a smaller, simpler, and less costly solution is needed.”
While colon resection surgeries are the company’s current focus, Virtual Incision plans to expand its offerings by producing mini robots for a variety of medical procedures.
“Beyond our initial device design for colon resection, Virtual Incision has begun developing a family of procedure-specific mini-robots for additional operations, such as hernia repair, gallbladder removal, and others, potentially enabling millions more surgical procedures each year,” explained Virtual Incision co-founder and chief technology officer Shane Farritor.
In 2017, the company raised $18 million in a Series B round of funding. Virtual Incision has recently raised $20 million in a “Series B+” round, which will be used to further pursue regulatory and clinical programmes. The round was led by Bluestem Capital, with participation from PrairieGold Venture Partners, Genesis Innovation Group and other investors.
“The Virtual Incision team has developed a unique robotic platform that has incredible potential to transform surgery,” said Steve Kirby, founding partner at Bluestem Capital. “With its foundational intellectual property—including more than 200 patents and applications—we are convinced that Virtual Incision will be leading the next wave of innovation in robotic surgery with the pioneering MIRA system.”
Michael Acton Smith
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