Activ Surgical Inc. today said it has closed a $15 million venture round. The Boston-based company said its ActivEdge platform integrates artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics to enable collaborative and autonomous surgery. Activ said it plans to use the latest financing to accelerate U.S. commercialization and European market expansion.
Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death after heart attack and cancer, and preventable surgical errors cost U.S. health care more than $36 billion and 400,000 deaths every year, according to medical researchers.
Activ Surgical said its patented software reduces unintended and preventable complications by assisting a surgeon’s intra-operative decision making. Rather than specialize, as other surgical robotics companies have, Activ Surgical has developed its system for multiple procedures.
“Modern-day healthcare demands that medical device companies think of different ways to bring new technology to surgeons and patients,” said Todd Usen, CEO of Activ Surgical. “For example, in the U.S. alone, $3.5 billion is spent every year on laparoscopic towers. Activ Surgical’s goal is to democratize sensing and intelligence technology globally without having to purchase more equipment or systems. By creating an open platform that is hardware-agnostic, we have the ability to work across surgical systems — from scopes to robots — to create safer outcomes for all surgeons and patients.”
ActiveEdge products intended for multiple procedures
ActivEdge is intended to enable existing surgical systems to visualize, characterize, and track tissue in real time.
“ActivEdge allows us to produce computer-vision guidance systems for scopes and robots to improve situational awareness and enable safe tissue access,” Usen told The Robot Report. He outlined the following four technologies:
- ActivSight works with any installed visualization system to provide real-time intra-operative visual data and images not currently available to surgeons through existing technologies. The imaging module attaches to laparoscopic and arthroscopic systems and provides on-demand insights in real time by integrating with standard monitors. With ActivSight, surgical systems can visualize blood flow with no workflow impact, unlike ICG, which does not offer real-time information to surgeons, claimed Usen.
- ActivInsight is designed to transform massive amounts of data gathered intra-operatively to help characterize tissue and critical structures, providing surgeons with augmented visuals and real-time guidance. The AI-based product will be designed for continuous improvement. Activ Surgical said it plans to develop one of industry’s largest annotated data sets over the next 12 months.
- ActivAssist will use machine learning based on the ActivInsight data set to optimally position scopes, allowing surgeons to perform at the highest level, according to Usen.
- ActivPilot will perform autonomous procedures with a surgeon in the loop to consistently achieve the best outcomes possible, he said.
Activ Surgical has been testing its products. In 2018, surgeons used the platform in the world’s first fully autonomous minimally invasive robotic procedure involving soft tissue, said the company.
“We have received feedback from a number of physicians that ActivSight is a game-changing technology unlike anything available today,” Usen said. “Activ Surgical already has nine hospital systems with 173 hospitals on board for our forthcoming pilot program, and we hope to have FDA clearance and a CE mark for European availability in Q1 2021. The ActivEdge platform has been designed to address worldwide markets without alterations.”
Usen said he expects ActivInsight to be commercially available in late 2021, but he declined to disclose timelines for ActivAssist and ActivPilot.
Investors join Activ Surgical board
ARTIS Ventures, which focuses on investments in life sciences and computer sciences, led the financing round. Healthcare venture capital firm LRVHealth joined the round, and existing investors DNS Capital, GreatPoint Ventures (GPV), Tao Capital Partners, and Rising Tide VC participated. To date, Activ Surgical has raised a total of $32 million, including $11 million in October 2019.
In addition, Activ Surgical is adding Ameena El-Bibany, principal at ARTIS Ventures, and Will Cowen, general partner at LRVHealth, to its board of directors. They will join current board members Emily Casey from DNS Capital, Ashok Krishnamurthi from Great Point Ventures, independent board member Paul Meister, and Activ’s Usen and Dr. Peter Kim.
“We believe Activ Surgical’s platform and technology are poised to transform the surgical space by enabling existing surgical systems and robots to visualize what surgeons can’t and guide them, thus making surgeries safer, reducing errors and improving patient outcomes,” said El-Bibany. “They have achieved major milestones in just a few years, advancing their technology from early proof of concept to their first market-ready product to be launched with early-access partners in 2021.”
“It is clear that Activ Surgical will be a disruptor in the digital surgery category,” said Cowen. “Our network of limited partners, including leading providers, payers, and vendors that together touch one in three healthcare consumers in the U.S., relies on us to help them uncover and develop innovative solutions. Activ Surgical’s first-of-its-kind surgical intelligence and sensing platform, driven by a highly seasoned management team, is an excellent fit with our portfolio.”
Activ Surgical is also a member of MassRobotics, a nonprofit innovation hub for the Massachusetts robotics cluster. How has the organization helped the startup?
“Activ Surgical has been a MassRobotics member since our inception in 2017,” said Usen. “The organization has lended significant support and resources to us, particularly as we grew out of stealth mode in the last 12 months. They have been critical to our growth, in sharing best practices, and exposing us to top talent and networking opportunities across the industry.”
In other surgical robotics news this week, Titan Medical Inc. resumed work on its Sport system after receiving new funding. Medtronic PLC, which recently signed a development agreement with Titan Medical, announced its intention to acquire ALMED Medicrea, a French company applying AI and robotics to spinal surgery.