Intuitive Surgical Secures New Technologies
The economic meltdown that drove many publicly traded share prices into the ground promised to spark a shopping spree for strategic investors looking to score inexpensive assets. The deals largely haven't materialized, but Intuitive Surgical., with more than $800 million in cash reserves and investments, is certainly beginning to nibble. Over the past six months, Intuitive has signed three technology-sharing agreements and bought the assets of a fourth in pursuit of new technologies to help feed future products to sell along side-or potentially inside-its da Vinci surgical systems.
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Robotic-driven technology has begun to transform surgery, but not without leaving some surgeons unimpressed. Now Corindus is trying to bring robots to the cath lab -- and this time physicians love the technology because it provides an ergonomically better experience and both enhances the procedure and reduces health problems.
The tremendous success of Intuitive Surgical over the past two decades seems clearly to argue that robotics is more than a techy's pipedream. Intuitive has already revolutionized at least one procedure - laparoscopic prostatectomy - and it figures to make significant progress in a range of others, in men's health, women's health, and cardiovascular surgery, to name just a few relevant clinical spaces. Even more impressive has been its success as a publicly traded company; for much of the middle years of this decade, Intuitive's stock was the strongest performer among all medical device public offerings. And perhaps most interesting: until recently, Intuitive was virtually the only robotics company to achieve any kind of success at all. In Vivo interviews Lonnie Smith, the CEO of the company for much of the 1990s and 2000s, to whom much of the credit should go.
Medical robotics has changed dramatically since the 1980s, when neurosurgeons first used a robot to precisely hold a fixture during brain surgery. Advances in computer image processing, surgical imaging technologies, techniques for registering surgical images, modeling, mechatronics, surgical simulation, and human-robot interaction have opened the door for emerging technologies that will have an increasing impact on growth in this market for many years to come.