An estimated 600,000 American women have hysterectomies every year to treat a variety of non-cancerous conditions.
Although the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends transvaginal rather than abdominal hysterectomy as the safest, least invasive and most cost-effective approach with the fastest recovery time, only 15–20 percent of uterus removals are done this way.
Many more hysterectomies could soon be done vaginally, now that the Hominis robotic surgery system from Israeli company Memic Innovative Surgery has received marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and $96 million in Series D investment.
Hominis gets around anatomical barriers that human surgeons can’t, such as pelvic organ prolapse.
“This is what robotics can do,” said Dvir Cohen, CEO and president of Memic. “It’s a fundamental architectural change and there is nothing else like this in the market.”
Hominis is the first FDA-authorized surgical robotic platform with human-level dexterity, flexibility and 360 degrees of articulation.
Its miniature humanoid-shaped robotic arms replicate the motions and capabilities of a surgeon’s hand, shoulder, elbow and wrist joints.
Using a patented surgical method, surgeons operating Hominis can introduce multiple instruments into the body through a single laparoscopic incision, avoiding obstacles and optimizing access and working angles.
In addition to these operational features, the system will be sold at a significantly lower price than other robotic surgery systems, potentially enabling more medical facilities to offer robot-assisted surgery.
Surgeons wanted to miniaturize themselves
Cohen, previously a robotic systems developer in the Israeli Defense Forces’ elite intelligence technology Unit 81, came to Memic in 2013 to further develop a small, flexible robotic finger innovation from Ariel University medical robotics professor Nir Shvalb, who helped invent the ViRob micro-robot platform.
“When I joined the company, I found out surgeons desire to miniaturize themselves inside the abdominal cavity,” said Cohen, “so I developed a robotic system with fingers, shoulders and wrists, with 360 degrees of flexion, which is unheard of in the field of surgical robotics.”
Hominis also is a game-changer because instead of the usual bulky and expensive controllers typically used in surgical robotics, its positioning technology allows for a hand-held controller at a fraction of the cost.
Memic was selected by the Israeli Ministry of Economy to be presented in a book of “Israeli Innovations –Breakthrough Products that Changed the World” and was named one of the most innovative medical inventions since Israel’s creation.
The system received “De Novo” [new classification category] marketing authorization from the FDA in February “for use in single site, natural orifice laparoscopic-assisted transvaginal benign surgical procedures including benign hysterectomy.” (De novo devices are considered reasonably safe and effective even though there are no other legally marketed devices of the same type.)
“The technology can do much more than that, of course,” Cohen said. “It can be used through the entire abdominal cavity for indications that, until now, have been off-limits to robot-assisted surgery. But we decided to focus first on this strong unmet need.”
Ready to sell
Memic, based in Or Yehuda and established in 2012, opened a U.S. subsidiary in Florida last year for global sales, marketing, customer support and education.
“Our team built a training program with a fast learning curve for surgeons with and without robotics experience,” said Cohen.
“We have a team ready to sell it, and we have tremendous interest from surgeons and hospitals and surgery centers. We have multiple site visits per day.”
The made-in-Israel Hominis eventually will be marketed in other countries as well.
“Memic brings to the market a disruptive laparoscopic robotic surgery technology that entails a substantially improved surgical technique that is also significantly cheaper and capable of surgical procedures the competition is unable to conduct,” said Eyal Lifschitz, managing general partner of Peregrine Ventures, a lead investor in the recent Series D round.
“Memic is on the road to implementing the vision of becoming a major global player that will enable surgeons to conduct safer laparoscopic procedures that will be more precise, will lead to a more rapid recovery, and will also lead to billions of dollars in lower costs for hospitals in the form of a substantial reduction in days of hospitalization,” Lifschitz said.
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