Vicarious Surgical is set to revolutionize microsurgery. How can they do it?
Adam Sachs is one of the pioneers in the world of tiny robotics. Together with partners Sammy Khalifa and Dr. Barry Green, he founded the startup Vicarious Surgical, in which they have been working for the past 10 years. Vicarious Surgical has developed a miniature robot that can move around the patient’s abdomen and perform the necessary surgical operations there. The operator controls the robot using a VR headset. The robot, which is extremely small, can enter the patient’s body through a tiny incision of less than 25 mm, and, equipped with two arms and a camera, can perform operations of varying complexity. By using this kind of robotics, the company hopes to simplify most of the surgical procedures, making them safer and easier. The developers plan to bring the product to the market by 2023.
The startup has already attracted quite influential investors and people in the IT field. Vicarious has attracted notable investors including billionaires Bill Gates, Vinod Khosl ($ 2.8 billion), Eric Schmidt ($ 23.1 billion) and Jerry Yang ($ 2.3 billion).
“Crawling into the body cavity and being able to reach your back and move to the abdominal wall is pretty serious,” says Paul Hermes, who led the robotics program at hardware maker Medtronic and now advises Vicarious. “We should expect robotic surgery to get better.”
Vicarious is set to go public through a merger with the SPAC company created by Hong Kong investor Donald Thang. The combined company, worth $ 1.1 billion, plans to raise $ 115 million, and one of the investors will be medical technology giant Becton Dickinson, which makes surgical meshes used for hernia repair. The combined company projects that its annual revenues will reach $ 1 billion by 2027.
The giant of the surgical robot market is Intuitive Surgical, with a market capitalization of $ 115 billion. It has led the field for 20 years since it introduced the da Vinci four-armed robot that holds elongated instruments. As Intuitive patents expire and robotic technology develops, its competitors, including J&J and Medtronic, which have bought surgical robot developers, are trying to make operations using robots as commonplace as laparoscopy (a modern method of surgery in which operations on internal organs are performed through small holes). The Vicarious robot is estimated to cost roughly $ 1.2 million, nearly half the cost of the most popular robots in existence. The ease with which surgeons can master it may also work in the company’s favor.
Vicarious is also planning other abdominal surgeries, including procedures over the gallbladder. In total, the potential market is estimated at 39 million transactions, of which only 3% are now carried out using robots. This is why Sachs, whose stake in Vicarious is worth $ 112 million, believes that only a small market share is enough to create a large company.
“This area was thought to have stagnated for a long time, but it’s not,” says Tan, an investor in SPAC. “We need to let people make sure it’s possible — and this is not fantasy.”